10 Things You Should Know About U.S. Municipal Infrastructure

What is the state of U.S. infrastructure? See for yourself in this look at some startling statistics.
10 Things You Should Know About U.S. Municipal Infrastructure

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It’s safe to say our municipal pipes and plants are aging. According to an EPA survey, about 30 percent of pipes are 40 to 80 years old, and roughly 10 percent of pipes are more than 80 years old.

In 2002, the EPA released the Clean Water and Drinking Water Gap Analysis Report, which compared what the country needs in water infrastructure updates to the revenue actually available to complete such projects. At that time, the EPA projected a funding gap of more than $500 billion over the next 20 years.

Eleven years have passed, and that estimate is now considered extremely conservative because of population growth, climate change and more. In fact, that $500 billion has now increased to a whopping $2.1 trillion according to the American Water Works Association. The American Society of Civil Engineers gave U.S. infrastructure a D+, which, as we all know, is barley passing.

With that said, here are 10 things you should know about U.S. infrastructure:

1. Clean water supports a LOT of industries.
Wastewater and water treatment plants are critical to our economy. Clean water is the backbone of many big-dollar industries, including the $300-billion coastal tourism industry, the $50-billion recreational industry, and the $45-billion commercial and shell fishing industry.

2. We’re leaking.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates most rural and urban systems lose 20 percent or more of the water they produce through leaks in municipal pipes.

3. And we’re leaking during a drought.
In California’s Bay Area, which is under severe drought conditions and water use restrictions, a new analysis shows that leaky pipes account for 23 billion gallons of lost water per year.

4. We’re still using wood
Water officials believe a handful of wooden water mains are still in use in South Dakota, Alaska and Pennsylvania, relics of the day when water systems used barrel-like pipes or bored-out logs to deliver water.

5. Whopper, that’s a lot of water main breaks.
Each year, municipalities repair about 240,000 water mains. Assuming each pipe is replaced, the AWWA predicts the cost over the coming decades could reach $1 trillion.

6. It’s the Era of Replacement.
The EPA estimates that 4,000 to 5,000 miles of water mains are replaced annually, and the AWWA has said we are in “the dawn of the replacement era.” That rate is expected to peak around 2035 as 16,000 to 20,000 miles of faulty pipe are replaced every year.

7. Dam, you guys are getting old.
The average age of the 84,000 dams in the United States is 52 years old. The number of deficient dams has increased to more than 4,000, which includes 2,000 high-hazard deficient dams. The Association of State Dam Safety Officials estimates $21 billion is needed to repair these aging, but critical, dams.

8. We need to invest $3.6 trillion. Yes, that’s with a “T.”
The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that infrastructure maintenance and replacement will cost the United States $3.6 trillion dollars by 2020.

9. Infrastructure needs vary by region.
According to a report by the AWWA, the West and South will be hardest hit by infrastructure replacement costs mainly because of population growth. In contrast, the Northeast and Midwest represent a smaller portion of the overall need.

10. Procrastination won’t help.
Delaying investment in our buried infrastructure is a bad idea. The AWWA has stated that “as daunting as the task at hand is, the prospect of not making the necessary investments is even more chilling.” The costs associated with flooding, sinkholes and water loss are high. 


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