EPA pegs five-year wastewater infrastructure investment tab

10 EPAii 400A survey of current or target projects that the Environmental Protection Agency conducted with states and territories finds that $271 billion is needed over the next five years to maintain and improve the nation’s wastewater infrastructure. Investment areas or subjects include the pipes that carry wastewater to treatment plants, technology that treats the water, and methods for managing stormwater runoff.

In each project, the agency factored location of a water quality-related public health problem, site-specific solution, and detailed cost information. EPA breaks down investment requirements by conveyance and treatment facilities:

  • $52.4 billion to meet secondary treatment standards. Secondary treatment uses biological processes to meet the minimum level of treatment required by law.
  • $49.6 billion for advanced wastewater treatment, where plants attain a level for effluent more protective than secondary treatment. Advanced treatment may also address nonconventional or toxic pollutants such as nitrogen, phosphorus, ammonia or metals.
  • $51.2 billion to rehabilitate and repair conveyance systems.
  • $44.5 billion to install new sewer collection systems, interceptor sewers and pumping stations.
  • $48 billion for combined sewer overflow correction to prevent periodic discharges of mixed stormwater and untreated wastewater during wet-weather events.
  • $19.2 billion to plan and implement structural and nonstructural measures to control polluted runoff from storm events.
  • $6.1 billion for conveyance and further treatment of wastewater for reuse.

“The only way to have clean and reliable water is to have infrastructure that is up to the task,” says EPA Acting Deputy Administrator for Water Joel Beauvais. “Our nation has made tremendous progress in modernizing treatment plants and pipes in recent decades, but this survey tells us that a great deal of work remains.”

Adequate wastewater infrastructure plays a vital role in the health of streams, rivers, and lakes, where discharged wastewater and stormwater runoff often end up, agency officials contend. Wastewater infrastructure must also become more resilient in the face of sea level rise, stronger and more frequent storms, flooding, and drought, they add, noting how system improvements also support healthy economies, partly indicated in good-paying construction jobs.

EPA launched the Water Infrastructure and Resiliency Finance Center in January 2015 to work with states and communities to identify innovative financing strategies for drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure. The center recently selected regional Environmental Finance Centers to help communities develop sustainable “how-to-pay” solutions to meet environmental goals. This financial expertise and technical assistance helps communities make informed funding decisions for resilient infrastructure projects that best meet local needs. — www.epa.gov/cwns