Water infrastructure needs are staggering

July 2010 » Departments » COMMENT
Shanon Fauerbach, P.E.

Every four years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency conducts a comprehensive analysis of the nation’s wastewater and stormwater treatment and collection capital investment needs for the next 20 years. Similar to previous reports, the numbers are staggering. The Clean Watersheds Needs Survey (CWNS) report estimates the national need is $298.1 billion, a $43.4 billion (17 percent) increase in investment needs compared with the 2004 CWNS report. Here’s how that figure is broken down:

  • $187.8 billion for wastewater treatment and collection systems;
  • $63.6 billion for combined sewer overflow corrections; and
  • $42.3 billion for stormwater management.

Beginning in the 2008 report, stormwater management is divided into four subcategories: stormwater conveyance infrastructure ($7.6 billion), stormwater treatment systems ($7.4 billion), green infrastructure ($17.4 billion), and general stormwater management ($2.9 billion). It also includes a need for $7.0 billion for projects reported in previous surveys that are still valid.

Further, other documented needs for nonpoint source pollution prevention ($22.8 billion) and decentralized/onsite wastewater systems ($23.9 billion) are included in the appendix to the CWNS. (They are not included in the main report because of a stipulation of the Clean Water Act.)

Data for the CWNS was collected between February 2008 and April 2009, and costs were converted to 2008 dollars for the report. It estimates water pollution control needs, wastewater flows, and wastewater treatment plant populations served based on surveys of states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories — summarizing more than 34,000 wastewater facilities and water quality projects. The resulting report to congress is used to inform legislation, state environmental agencies, legislatures, and governors’ offices to help administer environmental programs. Further, academia and industry use the data to support water quality research and technology development. Additionally, like the American Society of Civil Engineers’ (ASCE) Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, the results of this report, which were released in late May 2010, will be studied, quoted, and referenced by civil engineers to promote their business, substantiate local investment, and identify market opportunities.

The hefty price tag should be no surprise, as the ASCE Report Card regularly rates our wastewater infrastructure poorly; it earned a D- in the most recent report card. The sorry state of our wastewater infrastructure is most concerning, as sufficient water quality is fundamental to our national health and prosperity. While energy may get most of the press, especially these days with the devastating situation in the Gulf Coast, our water resources are perhaps the most critical of those civil engineers are engaged with.

CE News will be hosting an interesting online event next month that will interest those of you engaged in water resources, transportation, or building rehabilitation. The Government Infrastructure eConference: Engineers Planning for Better Water, Transportation, and Building Projects will take place on Wednesday, Aug. 25. With educational webcasts, live chats, networking opportunities, and a virtual tradeshow, this event has much to offer. I’m particularly excited about this event because our focus will be one our readers have told us they are specifically interested in: the conceptual design phase. For each of the civil engineering segments addressed, experts will discuss trends, explore project examples, and provide tips for tactical improvements you can make in serving your government clients or in serving the public as a government employee. But uniquely, for case studies, speakers will review the design options considered, explain why the winning solution was chosen, and discuss the technologies used to make the planning phase efficient and collaborative. This event will be unique, educational, and fun! Please join us by registering at www.governmentinfrastructure.com

Shanon Fauerbach, P.E.,

sfauerbach@stagnitomedia.com


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