US Drinking Water Systems In Need Of Repairs, Replacements, Analysis Shows

Date: October 06, 2015

Funds To Fix Drinking Water Infrastructure Scarce

An analysis by the AP found that drinking water systems across the US are in need of repair or replacement, including “scores” of them dating to “the time of World War II and earlier.” The EPA estimates “it will cost $384 billion over 20 years to maintain the nation’s existing drinking water systems, which will require tens of thousands of miles of replacement pipe and thousands of new or renovated plants.” Meanwhile, the American Water Works Association puts the cost at “$1 trillion to replace all outdated pipes and meet growth over the next quarter-century.” Said Adam Krantz of the Water Infrastructure Network, “The future is getting a little dark for something as basic and fundamental as water.” Currently, the AP said, there are “an estimated 700 main breaks occurring around the US” daily, with many damaging roadways or closing businesses. Replacing just one mile of a water main costs between $500,000 and $1 million, and experts caution “a peak of up to 20,000 miles of pipe will need to be replaced annually beginning around 2035, up from roughly 5,000 miles currently.” According to past president of the American Society of Civil Engineers Greg DiLoreto, “That’s the key that Americans have to understand: If they want this system, they are going to have to be willing to finance it, to pay for it.” In a 2013 report the ASCE cautioned, “Not meeting the investment needs of the next 20 years risks reversing the environmental, public health and economic gains of the last three decades.” While federal funds are available, they are largely through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, which is granted mostly to small towns and medium-sized cities. Additionally, some cities “shun the program because it offers mostly loans, not grants.”

What This Means For Small Businesses

Small businesses rely on utilities including water in order to keep operations running. Reports that critical water infrastructure across the US is falling into disrepair are concerning, because unless states and cities step up to provide these funds, the costs will be passed on to small business owners through utilities, or through the repair and recovery costs needed when water main breaks force closures. Cities must act now to assess their drinking water infrastructure and ensure its continued smooth operation.

Additional Reading

The AP in a second story based on its own review of Environmental Protection Agency records, reported that 34 states have “more than $10 million in unused grant funds” each, having failed to tap fully the federal Drinking Water State Revolving Fund for infrastructure upgrades.

Note: this article is intended to keep small business owners up on the latest news. It does not necessarily represent the policy stances of NFIB.

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