Winter 09 Investing in Clean Water

As a nation, we have built an extensive network of infrastructure to provide drinking water and to treat wastewater. Much of the wastewater infrastructure in the US was built in the 30 years after World War II. These investments in infrastructure reversed our Nation’s centuries-long trend of degraded water quality. Now, an arriving wave of infrastructure rehabilitation and replacement needs have to be faced over the next several decades.

How great is the need? The American Society of Civil Engineers graded the condition of the Nation’s wastewater infrastructure a D- in its 2009 Report Card. This was the lowest grade given among 15 categories of infrastructure. And the cost? Every four years the EPA conducts a survey on the amount of money needed to control pollution in order to meet environmental and human health objectives of the Clean Water Act. The 2004 Report estimated that meeting nationwide needs for wastewater pollution control would cost $202.5 billion. This amount includes $134.4 billion for wastewater treatment and collection systems, $54.8 billion for combined sewer overflow corrections, and $9.0 billion for stormwater management. These numbers will surely go up when EPA completes the 2008 survey.

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