Ensuring Sustainable Funding for Water-Resource Infrastructure
Modified and approved by The Board of Directors of the American Water Resources Association at its August 22, 2017 meeting, as proposed by the Policy Committee of AWRA
The American Water Resources Association recommends that policy makers at national, tribal, state, and local levels develop sustainable investment strategies for the construction, maintenance, and long-term resilience of water resources infrastructure to protect public health and safety, community quality of life, diverse economies, and the environment. Where private financing provides a substantial basis of infrastructure investments, safeguards and contingencies to protect the public interest in water should be included in the financial, management, and ownership agreements enabling the investment. Infrastructure investments should be accompanied by a clear analysis and justification of operations, maintenance, and replacement strategies over the life-cycle of each project, including a secure funding stream for these long-term commitments.
Investment in water resource infrastructure has been recognized as contributing to the welfare of the nation since its founding. Early investments in water resource infrastructure to support commerce and defense included navigation improvements, such as development and enhancement of inland waterways, ports, and harbors. Later investments included flood protection and expansion of water supplies in the American West. Similarly, public health officials have understood the value of well-functioning and well-maintained water and wastewater infrastructure since Dr. John Snow first conducted experiments in the mid-1800s, tracing the outbreak of cholera to a contaminated community water well in London.
In more recent times, the American Society of Civil Engineers has given barely passing grades to the nation's water, levee, inland waterway, dam, and wastewater infrastructure; the 2013 ASCE Infrastructure Report Card graded these areas as D or D-, with an estimated $1 trillion needed for drinking water pipe replacement, $298 billion for wastewater and stormwater systems, $100 billion to repair or rehabilitate levees, $21 billion for repair of aging high-hazard dams, and $18 billion for operation and maintenance costs for inland waterways over the next 20 years. Hurricanes, floods, wildfires, and earthquakes have highlighted the importance of location and protection of critical infrastructure at or near sea level, floodplains, or areas of geologic instability. New infrastructure projects face many challenges, including land-use permitting, environmental issues, and adequate financing. However, a vast amount of the nation's water infrastructure requires immediate attention and it is critical that policymakers develop the investment strategies needed to meet existing, as well as future infrastructure needs for not only public health and water quality but also water supply sufficiency, economic prosperity, environmental sustainability, as well as physical safety and property protection.
Though some of these projects are funded as pilots or experiments, or during crisis moments, our long-term infrastructure needs represent a much greater monetary investment and will require on-going sources of dedicated funding from all levels of government to adequately meet the nation's water resources and water quality needs.
If you have questions about any of our policy statements, please contact AWRA.