New Report Says $1 Trillion Needed over 25 Years for Drinking Water Systems

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 new study by the American Water Works Association says.

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.

Delaying needed investments will result in degraded water service, more frequent disruptions in water deliveries, and greater expenditures for emergency repairs, according to the report.

“A new kind of challenge is emerging in the United Sates, one that for many years was largely buried in our national consciousness,” the report says. “Now it can be buried no longer. Much of our drinking water infrastructure, the more than one million miles of pipes beneath our streets, is nearing the end of its useful life and approaching the age at which it needs to be replaced. Moreover, our shifting population brings significant growth to some areas of the country, requiring larger pipe networks to provide water service.”

Though the investment needed is large, it is not insurmountable, according to AWWA Executive Director David LaFrance.

“When you consider everything that tap water delivers – public health protection, fire protection, support for the economy, the quality of life we enjoy – we owe it to future generations to confront the infrastructure challenge today,” LaFrance said in a statement.

More on the report is available here.