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“The grades are in, and the nation’s drinking water and wastewater infrastructure is still in a poor state. If it were a student, such ongoing marginal performance would not be acceptable,” said Jeff Sterba, President and CEO of American Water, referring to the American Society of Civil Engineers’ (ASCE) latest Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, released today. The report, issued every four years since 2001, gave the nation’s water systems a D grade, up slightly from the D- conferred in the last two reports, but, according to Sterba, this year’s outcome is not a cause for celebration. He sees the findings as further confirmation of the need to update and maintain water infrastructure to ensure resiliency for health, safety, and robust local economies.
A breakdown of water systems can result in water disruptions, impediments to emergency response, and damage to other types of infrastructure, as well as unsanitary conditions, increasing the likelihood of public health issues. “Simply put, allowing water infrastructure to lapse puts the nation’s communities at risk,” said Sterba.
The price tag for the critical upkeep and replacement of the nation’s outdated water systems is approximately $1 trillion over the next 25 years, estimates the American Water Works Association. While this financial challenge is significant, there are solutions, including attracting additional private capital for public water infrastructure projects from companies like American Water, which proactively invests $800 million to $1 billion annually in needed system improvements to its water treatment facilities, distribution systems, and other critical assets across its footprint.
“Such investments prove their value every day,” said Sterba. “From projects to replace water mains, pipelines, and hydrants, and the installation of advanced metering technology to help reduce water leaks, to enhanced treatment capabilities improving efficiency and reliability, the investments we’ve made into the system ensure that we are well positioned to continue to meet customer needs in the communities that rely on us.