Funding the High Cost of Aging Infrastructure

University research team creates interactive online map showing the various ways utilities have gotten creative with financing mechanisms
Funding the High Cost of Aging Infrastructure
A Stanford University research team created an interactive online map highlighting case studies of innovative water financing efforts.

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Reports about the country’s aging water and wastewater infrastructure often are accompanied by a price tag — an especially high one. In March, when the American Society of Civil Engineers released its four-year infrastructure report card, it gave a D grade and estimated that $4.59 trillion would need to be spent by 2025 just to get up to a B level.

What needs to be done to improve infrastructure is clear. What is difficult for utilities is finding ways to fund that work. A team of researchers at Stanford University has created a new online resource, hoping that it can help utilities do some outside-the-box thinking to overcome financing challenges. The “Living Map” project compiles case studies of innovative water financing efforts that have been implemented successfully across the country and examines how other utilities can do something similar. It’s presented in an interactive map format with breakout boxes for each case study.

“We need a new playbook that embraces a holistic view of our water system and offers new ideas and solutions for our aging infrastructure,” says Newsha Ajami, director of urban water policy at Stanford’s Water in the West program and leader of the project.

For example, one of the featured case studies looks at how Washington, D.C.’s Stormwater Retention Credit Trading Program improves the area’s stormwater management without having to spend public dollars. The program incentivizes property owners to install green infrastructure by allowing them to generate credits that can then be bought and sold on an open market and used to meet stormwater regulatory requirements.

The map will be updated with more case studies over time, thus the name “Living Map.” Ajami is encouraging others to partner with her team to add projects to the map.

“The fact that it’s hard to access funding for distributed and unconventional water projects is not an excuse not to act,” Ajami says. “The Living Map gives a visual understanding of what is happening throughout the country and how grants, rebates, fees and other innovative governance structures are used to fund alternative water projects. It supports the view that there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to funding infrastructure and we as a community need a portfolio of financing tools and options for the water sector.”

Source: Stanford University


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