Failure to Act: the Economic Impact of Current Investment Trends in Water and Wastewater Treatment Infrastructure

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This report, issued in 2011 by the American Society of CIvil Engineers (ASCE), provides an overview of existing water, sewer, and CSO infrastructure in the U.S., describes the “water and wastewater infrastructure gap”, addresses the differences in the condition and needs of infrastructure based on region, and assesses the economic impacts of the failure of water infrastructure systems if this gap is not addressed. The report covers all aspects of infrastructure systems from pipes, to treatment plants, to pumping stations. According to the ASCE, “the EPA estimated the cost of the capital investment that is required to maintain and upgrade drinking-water and wastewater treatment systems across the U.S. in 2010 as $91 billion. However, only $36 billion of this $91 billion needed was funded, leaving a capital funding gap of nearly $55 billion.” They warn that current rates of maintenance and repair will result in damaged and ineffective systems, resulting in disruptions in service and inadequate sewage and water treatment, even as costs to consumers increase. Meanwhile, the infrastructure gap will continue to increase, making maintenance and repair harder to keep up with. The report calls for increased water management and sustainable practices, but notes that increased capital investment is also necessary to keep up with the rate of decline. The ASCE also argues for increased innovation and investment in technologies, such as greater use of reclaimed or “gray” water, green infrastructure, and desalination.