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Report measures billions in gains, losses tied to water infrastructure investment

Sources: Water Environment Federation, Alexandria, Va.; CP staff

A new report finds that closing the nation’s water infrastructure investment gap would create 1.3 million jobs and generate $220 billion in economic activity. “The Economic Benefits of Investing in Water Infrastructure” was commissioned by the Value of Water Campaign, through which the Water Environment Federation (WEF) in Alexandria, Va., and allied interests seek to advance positive solutions to pressing supply, conveyance and treatment system challenges.

To maintain reliable clean water services alone, the American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that the U.S. needs to invest an additional $82 billion in water infrastructure per year over the next decade at all levels of government. Those capital needs are dispersed across the country, ASCE contends: Midwest (23 percent), Northeast (20 percent), South (34 percent), and West (23 percent). Despite this increased need, the report finds that the federal government’s contribution to water infrastructure continues to decrease, from 60-plus percent in the 1970s to an average of 9 percent in recent years.

“Although we were pleased to see a proposed FY 2018 Budget Request that includes a slight increase to [federal] water infrastructure funding programs, it still falls short of the billions needed to modernize our systems and maintain the quality and service our communities are accustomed to receiving,” says WEF Executive Director Eileen O’Neill. “Inadequate investment in water infrastructure as well as reductions in funding for watershed protections and water-related research pose a real threat to our water resources and our quality of life.”

The report’s release coincides with World Water Day and Water Week, global and national efforts designed to bring attention to the value and importance of clean water. Authors’ analyses fall against a national backdrop of what WEF characterizes as increasingly complex challenges exacerbated by overstressed and antiquated drinking water, wastewater and stormwater management systems, plus regulatory requirements that at times outpace the technological capabilities of the nation’s supply, conveyance and treatment operations.

“The report findings make it clear that investments in water infrastructure generate high-quality jobs, increase the competitiveness of American businesses, and lead to a significant injection of economic activity throughout the nation,” notes Value of Water Campaign Executive Director Radhika Fox. “That is the message we want public officials on Capitol Hill and across the country to hear.” www.thevalueofwater.org