Drinking Water Examined
The United States must invest an additional $250 billion to replace aging drinking water infrastructure over the next 30 years, at a cost of as much as $6,900 per household, reports a national study conducted by the American Water Works Association (AWAA) on the nation's drinking water infrastructure. The AWWA says its study was conducted in 20 of the best and largest utilities nationwide and is the first comprehensive assessment of drinking water infrastructure needs ever performed.
Included in the group's findings were warnings that spending on pipe replacement must triple over the next 30 years in order for the nation to maintain a reliable, high-quality drinking water infrastructure. The American drinking water infrastructure network spans more than 700,000 miles, which is more than four times longer than the National Highway System. Because pipes from different eras have different life spans, they also have differences of when they must be replaced. Most utilities will have to confront a convergence of replacement needs over the next several decades as pipes laid a century ago, in the 1920s and the post-World War II era all need to be replaced over a relatively short period of time.
Using specific information about pipe age and break rates, the AWWA report found that the nation needs to invest another $250 billion to replace aging drinking water mains, valves and fittings, at a cost ranging from $550 to $6,900 per household. These figures do not include the $12 billion already being spent every year by utilities on infrastructure replacement, or spending to meet new federal standards for drinking water, or concurrent needs to replace sewer pipes and to meet new discharge requirements for stormwater.