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EPA Releases Survey Showing $384 Billion Needed for Drinking Water Infrastructure

Wednesday, June 5, 2013
By Pat Ware

The Environmental Protection Agency released a report June 4 showing that $384 billion in improvements are needed for drinking water infrastructure through 2030.

The total includes the needs of 73,400 drinking water systems across the United States, as well as American Indian and Alaska native village water systems, according to the report, which is based on a survey of public water systems.

EPA's Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs Survey and Assessment: Fifth Report to Congress identifies the investments needed for thousands of miles of pipes and thousands of treatment plans, storage tanks, and water distribution systems.

“The survey released today shows that the nation's water systems have entered a rehabilitation and replacement era in which much of the existing infrastructure has reached or is approaching the end of its useful life,” EPA Assistant Administrator Bob Perciasepe said in a statement accompanying the survey.

The estimate represents infrastructure projects necessary from Jan. 1, 2011, through Dec. 31, 2030.

EPA allocates drinking water state revolving loan fund grants based on the results of the assessment. The survey must be submitted to Congress every four years under the Safe Drinking Water Act.


Needs Remain the Same
EPA's fourth survey, released in March 2009, estimated needs of $335 billion over a 20-year period starting Jan. 1, 2007.

The needs in the most recent survey are comparable to those in the 2009 assessment and to the survey released in 2005, both of which have been adjusted to 2011 dollars, EPA said.

EPA noted a recent assessment by the American Water Works Association citing a significantly higher number needed for water infrastructure.

A 2012 report by the American Water Works Association estimated that more than $1.7 trillion would be needed for water projects between 2011 and 2050.

The estimate is significantly higher than EPA's because it is based on a different set of assumptions about pipe replacement and investment and covers a longer period of time, EPA said.

EPA said its most recent assessment was conducted by a random sample survey sent to about 3,150 public water systems, representing large, medium, and small systems.


Aging or Deteriorating Pipes
The assessment shows that improvements are primarily needed in:

  • distribution and transmission: $247 billion to replace or refurbish aging or deteriorating lines;

  • treatment: $72 billion to construct, expand, or rehabilitate infrastructure to reduce contamination;

  • storage: $39.5 billion to construct, rehabilitate, or cover finished water storage reservoirs; and

  • source: $20.5 billion to construct or rehabilitate intake structures, wells, and spring collectors.

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