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When water infrastructure is underfunded, a simple activity like drinking a glass of tap water could be unsafe.  There are approximately 151,000 public water systems in the United States accoring to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  Surprisingly, there are several areas of the nation that are still utilizing water infrastructure systems that pre-date the Civil War. In 2021 the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the nation’s drinking water systems a C- and and wastewater systems a D+.  According to the U.S Environmental Protection Agency’s 2018 Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs Survey and Assessment it is estimated that drinking water utilities will need to invest $472.6 billion over the next 20 years in order to provide safe and sufficient water to the American public.  That is a serious level of funding needed but if we are to maintain a first-class society, where people can safely drink from our water systems, we must make these investments.

There are 14,748 wastewater treatment facilities. Demand on treatment plants will grow more than 23% by 2032.  Capital investment needs for the nation’s wastewater and storm water systems are estimated to total $271 billion over the next twenty years to meet current and future demands.  Most Americans may never see such a facility since most of this infrastructure is hidden, underground, and out of sight. 

A recently released national report – The Economic Benefits of Investing in Water Infrastructure – finds that closing the water infrastructure investment gap would result in $220 billion annually in economic activitiy and 1.3 million jobs annually.  

However, if these systems fail, and our drinking and ground water becomes contaminated, we will find ourselves dealing with a crisis of such significance that the costs could be far more than we are able to afford in terms of dollars, quality of life, and future cleanliness of our water supply.  A one-day disruption in water service would cost $43.5 billion in sales and $22.5 billion in GDP.  An eight-day disruption would shrink the annual GDP by one percent.  We must not let these systems fall into a state of disrepair. 

There are 11,000 miles of inland waterways and over 91,000 dams located throughout the United States. More than 830 million tons of freight move through the inland waterways system annually (American Society of Civil Engineers).  These are critical infrastructure systems that, if not repaired and maintained, will cause catastrophic consequences by flooding towns, cities, and farmland in virtually every region of the United States. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita showed the world what happens when our levees are not built to handle the appropriate levels of water. Had we invested more just a few years before, we may have prevented the billions in costs following that disaster from having to have been spent and saved thousands of lives. As Benjamin Franklin was quoted as saying: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

The average age of dams is 57 years old and as dams age, deterioration increases and construction costs rise (Association of State Dam Safety Officials).  Federal dam-related spending reached a 10-year high in 2016, though almost one-third of the nation's 91,000 plus dams are still rated as "high" or "significant" hazard, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' 2016 National Inventory of Dams.  It is estimated it will require an investment of nearly $45 billion to repair aging, yet critical, high-hazard potential dams.  


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Infrastructure That Needs Investment