The state of water and wastewater infrastructure and how to finance critical capital improvements once again top the list of concerns facing water professionals throughout North America, according to the American Water Works Association’s 2015 State of the Water Industry Report.
AWWA’s annual report surveys water industry professionals’ views of the industry’s biggest challenges and priorities. The 2015 report analyzed the responses of 1,747 water professionals throughout the U.S., Canada and Mexico, eliciting responses to such questions as “In your opinion, what is the current state of the water industry in the region where you work most often?” and “Looking forward, how sound will the water industry be five years from now in the region where you work most often?” Participants were also asked to rate the importance of several challenges to the industry’s health on a scale of 1 to 5. As has been the case for the last several years, the most important issue to respondents in this year’s survey was “renewal and replacement of aging water and wastewater infrastructure,” followed by “financing for capital improvements,” then “long-term water supply availability” and “public understanding of the value of water systems and services.”
Of the top 10 issues facing the water industry identified in the 2015 survey, half – and four of the top five – relate to what the AWWA calls “system stewardship,” i.e., how water and wastewater systems are operated, maintained, and replaced. The report makes the point that these issues continue to top the list of water professionals’ concerns because so many water and wastewater systems built and financed by previous generations are approaching or have exceeded their useful lives. Because local budgets rarely cover the costs of necessary maintenance and replacement, and because in many cases utility revenues are declining due to system efficiencies and successful conservation efforts, critical infrastructure fixes are delayed, and system stewardship fails.
We at CWC share the concerns of the water professionals who participated in this year’s AWWA survey. The need to address aging water and wastewater infrastructure financing levels and methods is the most important challenge facing the water industry going forward. Our lawmakers need to wake up to the reality that utility managers and other industry professionals live every day: more funds are urgently needed for water infrastructure renewal and replacement.
Click here to download a copy of the AWWA report.