ASCE Study Finds Water Infrastructure Deficiencies Could Harm U.S. Economy

Aging water infrastructure will cost U.S. businesses $147 billion over the next decade, a new ASCE report released this week found.  “Failure to Act:  The Economic Impact of Current Investment Trends in Water and Wastewater Treatment Infrastructure” identifies the long-term consequences to the nation’s economy from failing to invest today in our aging drinking water and wastewater infrastructure. The report is the second in a four part series of economic studies assessing the impacts of continued underinvestment in the nation’s infrastructure systems.

The report answers the question of how the condition of the nation’s deteriorating wastewater and drinking water infrastructure impinges on economic prosperity of American jobs, businesses, and entire sectors of the economy. In other words, how does a D- for water treatment identified ASCE’s 2009 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure affect America’s economic future? The report’s results are sobering.

Water infrastructure in the United States is aging, and investments have not kept pace with the escalating costs. In fact, the report finds that by 2020, the US will have fallen $84 billion short of the investments needed in our critical water systems. Even with the increased use of sustainable practices and cost-effective development of other efficiency methods, the growing gap between capital needs to maintain drinking-water and wastewater treatment infrastructure and investments to meet those needs will likely result in unreliable water service and inadequate wastewater treatment. However, if we close that gap and invest in our water infrastructure, we can prevent the following impacts by 2020:

• $59 billion in increased costs to households

• $147 billion in increased costs to businesses

• $416 billion in lost Gross Domestic Product (GDP)

• Loss of 700,000 jobs

On Tuesday, ASCE President-Elect, Greg DiLoreto P.E., M.ASCE, chief executive officer for the publicly-owned Tualatin Valley Water District in the Portland, Oregon area, introduced some of the report’s results to Congress (see related story below.)

Also this week, ASCE held a series of briefings for water infrastructure stakeholders and Congressional staff.  ASCE will lead webinars in early 2012 for all members interested in more details on the report.

In July, ASCE issued the first Failure to Act report on under-investment in the nation’s surface transportation systems.  We concluded that by 2020 the nation’s deteriorating surface transportation systems could cost the American economy more than 876,000 jobs, and suppress the growth of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by $897 billion.

Download and view the full reports as well as the executive summary on ASCE’s “Failure To Act” website

President Elect Diloreto Testifies On The State Of Deteriorating Water Infrastructure

ASCE President-elect Greg DiLoreto, P.E., P.L.S., F.ASCE, citing a new ASCE analysis of the economic effects of aging infrastructure released this week, said the gap between capital needs and actual expenditures will total $84 billion by 2020.

“Even with the increased use of sustainable practices and cost-effective development of other efficiency methods, the growing gap between capital needs to maintain drinking-water and wastewater treatment infrastructure and investments to meet those needs will likely result in unreliable water service and inadequate wastewater treatment,” DiLoreto said in testimony before the Water and Wildlife subcommittee on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

“Cumulatively, families will earn $541 billion less in 2020 than they earned in 2011.  By 2020, this means that an individual household will be earning $806 less a year.”

The $84 billion funding gap will result in $147 billion in increased costs for businesses and a further $59 billion for U.S. households, he added.  “In the worst case, the U.S. will lose almost 700,000 jobs by 2020,” DiLoreto said.

As the U.S. population has increased, the percentage served by public water systems has also increased, he testified.

“Each year new water lines are constructed to connect more distant dwellers to centralized systems, continuing to add users to aging systems. Although new pipes are being added to expand service areas, drinking-water systems degrade over time; they must be replaced at the end of their useful life, which ranges from 15 to 95 years,” DiLoreto concluded. 

View the complete hearing record and ASCE’s testimony.
 View ASCE’s policies on infrastructure financing.

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