The nation's drinking water infrastructure will require a $384 billion investment through 2030.
The results of a new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency survey should come as no surprise, but the numbers are still alarming.
EPA’s fifth Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs Survey and Assessment, the results of which were released earlier this week, show that $384 billion in improvements are needed for the nation’s drinking water infrastructure through 2030 for systems to continue providing safe drinking water to 297 million Americans. The survey identified investments needed over the next 20 years for thousands of miles of pipe and thousands of treatment plants, storage tanks and water distribution systems.
The national total of $384 billion includes the needs of 73,400 water systems across the country, as well as American Indian and Alaska Native Village water systems.
In a press release announcing the findings, EPA Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe said the survey 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,” he said.
The survey, required under the Safe Drinking Water Act to be submitted to Congress every four years by EPA, was 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 across the United States, including those in tribal communities, through an extensive questionnaire. In many cases, drinking water infrastructure was reported to be 50 to 100 years old.
The assessment shows that $247.5 billion is needed to replace or refurbish aging or deteriorating distribution lines, and another $72.5 billion is needed in the area of treatment to construct, expand or rehabilitate infrastructure to reduce contamination. Storage needs account for another $39.5 billion, and $20.5 billion is required for the construction and rehabilitation of intake structures, wells and spring collectors.
To say it’s a major investment would be a gross understatement, but it’s absolutely necessary. Water infrastructure is one of the most basic and sustaining foundational elements of our society, and while you’re well aware of it, far too many people in the general populace are oblivious to the consequences of failing to make this investment now.
EPA allocates Drinking Water State Revolving Fund grants to states based on the findings of the assessment. These funds help states provide low-cost financing to public water systems for infrastructure improvements necessary to protect public health and comply with drinking water regulations.
Still, the grant program alone won’t make this all happen. More needs to be done, and your voices need to be heard at all levels of government, from your city councils to Capitol Hill.
Additional information on revolving fund grants and the complete survey and assessment are available on the EPA’s website.