AMERICAN WATER WORKS ASSOCIATION
A new kind of challenge is emerging in the United States, one that for many years was largely buried in our national consciousness. Now it can be buried no longer. Much of our drinking water infrastructure, the more than one million miles of pipes beneath our streets, is nearing the end of its useful life and approaching the age at which it needs to be replaced. Moreover, our shifting population brings significant growth to some areas of the country, requiring larger pipe networks to provide water service.
As documented in this report, restoring existing water systems as they reach the end of their useful lives and expanding them to serve a growing population will cost at least $1 trillion over the next 25 years, if we are to maintain current levels of water service. Delaying the investment can result in degrading water service, increasing water service disruptions, and increasing expenditures for emergency repairs. Ultimately we will have to face the need to “catch up” with past deferred investments, and the more we delay the harder the job will be when the day of reckoning comes.
In the years ahead, all of us who pay for water service will absorb the cost of this investment, primarily through higher water bills. The amounts will vary depending on community size and geographic region, but in some communities these infrastructure costs alone could triple the size of a typical family’s water bills. Other communities will need to collect significant “impact” or development fees to meet the needs of a growing population. Numerous communities will need to invest for replacement and raise funds to accommodate growth at the same time. Investments that may be required to meet new standards for drinking water quality will add even more to the bill.
Although the challenge to our water infrastructure has been less visible than other infrastructure concerns, it’s no less important. Our water treatment and delivery systems provide public health protection, fire protection, economic prosperity and the high quality of life we enjoy. Yet most Americans pay less than $3.75 for every 1,000 gallons of safe water delivered to their taps.
This report demonstrates that as a nation, we need to bring the conversation about water infrastructure above ground. Deferring needed investments today will only result in greater expenses tomorrow and pass on a greater burden to our children and grandchildren. It’s time to confront America’s water infrastructure challenge.
About The American Water Works Association
The American Water Works Association is an international nonprofit educational association dedicated to safe water. Founded in 1881 as a forum for water professionals to share information and learn from each other for the common good, AWWA is the authoritative resource for knowledge, information, and advocacy for improving the quality and supply of water in North America and beyond.