News Feature | March 13, 2017

U.S. Water And Wastewater Infrastructure Get Near-Failing Grades

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

The definitive report on U.S. infrastructure, issued this week for the first time in four years, put a spotlight on the deep challenges the nation faces in upgrading its water and wastewater systems.

The U.S. received an overall grade of “D+” on the infrastructure report card issued by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). Wastewater and drinking water infrastructure scored a “D+” and a “D,” respectively.

The Hill reported: “The rating is considered ‘poor’ and ‘at risk,’ just one step above failing and unfit for purpose.”

Wired summed up the assessment like this: “Well, it really is as bad as you think.”

The nation’s overall grade of “D+” has not changed since 2013, meaning little progress has been made since that time.

The report called for “transformative action from Congress” and other policymakers.

“Deteriorating infrastructure is impeding our ability to compete in the thriving global economy, and improvements are necessary to ensure our country is built for the future,” it said.

The price tag for fixing U.S. infrastructure is daunting.

The ASCE estimated “that the United States needed to invest $4.59 trillion by 2025 to bring its infrastructure to an adequate B- grade, a figure about $2 trillion higher than current funding levels,” Reuters reported.

“The price tag for redemption has grown steadily for 15 years while an expanding country has focused on building new infrastructure rather than maintaining existing systems that were nearing the end of their natural life,” The Washington Post explained.

For water and wastewater, the report estimated that there will be a $105 billion investment gap by 2025.

The report offered the following suggestions for raising the nation’s water and wastewater grades:

  • Reinvigorate the state revolving loan fund program;
  • Fully fund the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) at its authorized level;
  • Preserve tax exempt municipal bond financing to provide communities with affordable access to capital for water infrastructure.

Various reports questioned whether President Trump, who has been vocal about the need to invest in infrastructure, will be able to help remedy the problem.

Bloomberg reported: “The findings could reinforce President Donald Trump’s initiative to steer as much as $1 trillion in public and private funds to U.S. infrastructure over the coming years. Trump met with private-sector leaders on Wednesday to discuss his plan and said he wants states to be ready to start projects within 90 days of receiving funding, the White House said.”

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