Processing Magazine

Cost of repairing water infrastructure could top $1 trillion, study shows

February 28, 2012

WASHINGTON — The cost of repairing and expanding U.S. drinking water infrastructure will top $1 trillion in the next 25 years, an expense that likely will be met primarily through higher water bills and local fees, a study by the American Water Works Association (AWWA) shows.

The report, titled “Buried No Longer: Confronting America’s Water Infrastructure Challenge,” analyzes many factors, including timing of water main installation and life expectancy, materials used, replacement costs and shifting demographics.

Nationally, the infrastructure needs are almost evenly divided between replacement and expansion requirements.

Cities will be impacted in different ways depending on their sizes and geography. Many small communities will face the greatest challenges because they have smaller populations across whom to spread the expenses.

“Because pipe assets last a long time, water systems that were built in the latter part of the 19th century and throughout much of the 20th century have, for the most part, never experienced the need for pipe replacement on a large scale,” the report states. “The dawn of an era in which the assets will need to be replaced puts a growing stress on communities that will continue to increase for decades to come.”