Last week the EPA released a survey showing that $271 billion is needed to maintain and improve the nation’s wastewater infrastructure, including the pipes that carry wastewater to treatment plants, the technology that treats the water, and methods for managing stormwater runoff. The $271 billion is primarily for projects needed within five years.
In announcing the survey’s release, EPA noted the vital role that adequate wastewater infrastructure plays in the health of streams, rivers, and lakes, where discharged wastewater and stormwater runoff often end up, and the necessity of updating wastewater infrastructure to increase its resiliency to the impacts of climate change, including sea level rise, stronger and more frequent storms, flooding, and drought.
The EPA also highlighted the importance of wastewater infrastructure projects in supporting healthy economies, noting that building, operating and maintaining those projects create well-paying jobs. The EPA also pointed out that modernized infrastructure results in cleaner water, which is essential for many businesses and sectors of the economy.
The survey breaks down the $271 billion in wastewater infrastructure needs as follows:
- secondary wastewater treatment (in which biological processes are used to meet the minimum level of treatment required by law) of $52.4 billion;
- advanced wastewater treatment (consisting of upgrades allowing a treatment level beyond that of secondary treatment, e.g., by treating non-conventional or toxic pollutants such as nitrogen, phosphorus, ammonia or metals) of $49.6 billion;
- conveyance system rehabilitation and repair of $51.2 billion;
- new conveyance systems (installation of new sewer collection systems, interceptor sewers and pumping stations) of $44.5 billion;
- combined sewer overflow correction (to prevent periodic discharges of mixed stormwater and untreated wastewater during storms) of $48 billion;
- stormwater management programs ( to plan and implement measures to control polluted runoff from storm events) of $19.2 billion; and
- recycled water distribution of $6.1 billion.
The EPA release announcing the survey discusses the Water Infrastructure and Resiliency Finance Center launched in January 2015 (discussed in our January 21, 2015 post) to help communities identify water infrastructure financing strategies, as well as the types of financial assistance that EPA offers to help with the needed projects. To read the EPA’s press release reporting on the survey, click here. For more information on the survey itself, click here.
We at CWC are gratified to see the EPA’s acknowledgment of the pressing need for, and the economic benefits that flow from, projects repairing, replacing and modernizing our country’s wastewater infrastructure, and we hope the survey stimulates interest in and action on these projects. But as our readers know, far more is needed. The EPA’s $271 billion addresses just the short term (projects needed within 5 years), and just wastewater infrastructure. As we have pointed out before, trillions are needed to update wastewater and drinking water infrastructure in the next couple of decades, and we will not let up in our efforts to secure more funding from the EPA and other parts of the federal government to this end.