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EPA: Water Infrastructure Needs $384B

Thursday, June 13, 2013

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Drinking water infrastructure across the country is rapidly approaching the end of its lifespan and will need over $384 billion in improvements over the next two decades, a newly released survey found.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently released the results of its survey on the nation's drinking water infrastructure, saying it needs $384.2 billion in improvements for 73,400 systems through 2030 for Americans to continue to have safe drinking water.

In many cases, the infrastructure was reported to be 50 to 100 years old, according to EPA.

aging water infrastructure
Cindy McDonald / Kentucky Division of Water

EPA's survey and assessment of drinking water infrastructure found that a majority of states' storage, pipelines, and other systems are 50 to 100 years old.

EPA's fifth "Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs Survey and Assessment" identifies investment needs for thousands of miles of pipes and thousands of treatment plants, storage tanks and water distribution systems.

Aging Infrastructure

Developed in consultation with all 50 states and the Navajo Nation, the survey looked at the funding and operational needs of more than 3,000 public drinking water systems. The survey took place in 2011.

"A safe and adequate supply of drinking water in our homes, schools and businesses is essential to the health and prosperity of every American," said Bob Perciasepe, EPA Acting Administrator, in a statement about the survey.

"The survey EPA released today shows that the nation's water systems have entered a rehabilitation and replacement era in which much of the existing infrastructure has reached or is approaching the end of its useful life. This is a major issue that must be addressed so that American families continue to have the access they need to clean and healthy water sources," Perciasepe said.

The survey identified these main areas where improvements are primarily needed:

  • $247.5 billion to replace or refurbish aging or deteriorating lines in distribution and transmission;
  • $72.5 billion to construct, expand or rehabilitate treatment infrastructure to reduce contamination;
  • $39.5 billion to construct, rehabilitate or cover finished water storage reservoirs; and
  • $20.5 billion to construct or rehabilitate intake structures, wells and spring collectors.

Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, EPA must submit the survey to Congress every four years. Four previous assessments were conducted in 1995, 1999, 2003, and 2007.

EPA Drinking Water Infrastructure

Drinking Water Funds

The Drinking Water State Revolving Fund was started in 1997 and has since provided close to $15 billion in grants to all 50 states and Puerto Rico.

EPA allocates the funds to states based on the findings of the assessment, and the 2011 assessment will determine grant allocation for fiscal years 2014 through 2017. Each state receives no less than one percent of the government's alloted funding.

Thirty-five states, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico were fully surveyed for their water infrastructure needs. The top five areas in terms of investment needed were: California ($44,513,000); Texas ($33,891,800); New York ($22,041,100); Illinois ($18,984,900); and Florida ($16,471,000).

The remaining states had the option of being partially surveyed because they recieved the minimum allocation from the 2007 survey. Those states totaled $23,962,400 in needed investments.

Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs Survey and Assessment
Michelle Stamates / Nevada Division of Environmental Protection

Out of the $384 billion needed for water infrastructure, the largest chunk ($247.5 billion) is needed to replace or refurbish deteriorating transmission pipeline.

The recent assessment shows significant change in some states' needs from previous surveys. The results of the report determine the allocation of Drinking Water State Revolving Fund grants, and therefore only accounted for projects eligible for the funding.

Green Projects

While the EPA survey did not create a new category of need for green projects, it did request voluntary information to identify projects that included green components.

Green infrastructure included products, technologies and practices that use natural systems or engineered systems that mimic natural processes to enhance overall environmental quality and provide utility services. Green infrastructure categories included water efficiency, energy efficiency and environmentally innovative projects.

The total cost of projects that included a green component was $4.79 billion, with only five states and Puerto Rico reporting more than five percent of their projects as green.


Tagged categories: Corrosion; Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); Government; Industry surveys; Infrastructure; Pipelines; Wastewater Plants

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