AWWA Report Says Aging Infrastructure Is #1 Water Problem

This week, thousands of water professionals met at the American Water Works Association’s 131st Annual Conference and Exposition (ACE12) seeking new ways to confront and solve America’s water infrastructure challenges, related energy costs and the future of safe water.

Among the many water related issues and challenges addressed at the meeting, one report stood out as it detailed why an aging infrastructure is the “most pressing concern” of US water and wastewater system professionals. Key findings included:

  • Issues that drive investment or cost are the top concerns among water utility leaders; aging infrastructure is the most pressing concern.
  • More than 75% of respondents to a survey have taken measures to reduce energy consumption.
  • More than half of the respondents are implementing asset management programs.
  • 85% of respondents said average water consumers have little-to-no understanding of the gap between rates paid and the cost of providing water and wastewater services.
  • Nearly half of utility leaders believe that customers will probably be willing to pay higher rates needed to pay for capital improvements.

To get an idea of how old the nation’s water systems are, 30% of systems that deliver water to more than 100,000 people are between 40 and 80 years old, according to the EPA. About 10% of those systems are even older. In fact, since 2000, cities have spent nearly $51 billion on repairing their aging infrastructure. Enough water has been wasted to supply all of California with water for a year.

How much would it cost to fix? Every year, according to the EPA, the estimated price tag for repairing the nation’s water infrastructure rises. The best guess at a total cost over the next 20 years has skyrocketed to the latest estimate — $335 billion.

So, when you consider that more than 20% of global energy is consumed transporting and treating water, it’s easy to understand why the need to conserve water energy costs are driving demand for high-tech and energy efficiency products.

Recent initiatives by many water technology leaders, including Xylem, have been focused on development of products and systems that conserve water and energy, which results in a myriad of economic and environmental benefits to consumers and their communities.

Moving forward our industry will continue to play a critical role in improving the quality of life, helping communities grow and industries to thrive as we enable the smarter use of water with innovative water solutions.

What smart solutions are you incorporating into your projects?