Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure

The nation has an estimated need of between $400 and $600 billion over the next 20 years for safe drinking water and wastewater treatment infrastructure. One of the primary sources of federal funding for drinking water and waste water infrastructure are the highly successful, but chronically underfunded, Safe Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund (SRF) programs. In addition, to help stabilize the level of water infrastructure funding, a Clean Water Trust Fund is needed for a user-fee based, deficit-neutral funding stream. The recently enacted Recovery Act included additional water infrastructure but the funding for the programs lags significantly behind the needs.

EPA Data

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is the primary source for information on the needs and current water/wastewater infrastructure backlog for each state and territory. Much information can be found at their water infrastructure portal here:

Clean Water

On the clean water side (wastewater and stormwater), EPA has the Clean Watersheds Needs Survey. This survey is taken every four years and each state submits its infrastructure needs to:

Drinking Water

For drinking water, EPA has the Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs Assessment. The detail is a bit less than they provide for wastewater, but info and state fact sheets can be found here:

There is also the Community Water Systems Survey, for the smallest community systems, which can be found here:

Water Needs

  • Crumbling Pipes and Underground Waste: A Glimpse at Our Ailing Sewer Systems (PBS Newshour [Video], 2013)+
    • As clean water regulations become tougher and sewer systems and water treatment plants become outdated, cities are struggling to stay compliant and safe. Science correspondent Miles O'Brien goes underground to discover the many ways America's sewer systems could be revamped to conserve water and savfe money. Watch the video
  • Failure to Act: The Economic Impact of Current Investment Trends in Water and Waste Treatment Infrastructure (American Society of Civil Engineers, 2011)+
    • Unless new investments are made by 2020, unreliable and insufficient water infrastructure will cost the average American household $900 per year in higher water rates and lower wages; American businesses can expect an additional $147 billion in increased costs and the economy will lose 700,000
  • Trends in Local Government Expenditures on Public Water and Wastewater Services and Infrastructure: Past, Present and Future (U.S. Conference of Mayors, 2010)+
    • Examines trends in local government spending on public water and wastewater services and infrastructure to determine the level of resources devoted to these functions; and to project what the likely spending requirements will be over the next 20 years (2009-2028). Read the complete document
  • Water Infrastructure Needs and Investment: Review and Analysis of Key Issues (Congressional Research Service, 2008)+
    • Identifies a number of issues that have received attention in connection with water infrastructure investment including: the debate about needs, who will pay, what is the federal role and mechanisms for delivering federal support. Read the complete document
  • Still Living Without the Basics in the 21st Century: Analyzing the Availability of Water and Sanitation Services in the United States (Rural Community Assistance Partnership, 2004)+
  • Water Infrastructure: Information on Financing, Capital Planning and Privatization (Government Accountability Office, 2002)+
    • Found that the amount of funds obtained from user charges and other local sources of revenue was less than the full cost of providing service – including operation and maintenance, debt service, depreciation, and taxes – for more than a quarter of drinking water utilities and more than four out of ten wastewater utilities. Read the complete document
  • The Clean Water and Drinking Water Infrastructure Gap Analysis (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2002)+
    • Estimates capital needs for clean water from 2000 to 2019 range from $331 billion to $450 billion and capital needs for drinking water over the same period range from $154 billion to $446 billion. Read the complete document
  • Future Investment in Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure (Congressional Budget Office, 2002)+
    • Estimates that for the years 2000 to 2019, annual costs for investment will average between $11.6 billion and $20.1 billion for drinking water systems and between $13 billion and $20.9 billion for wastewater systems. Read the complete document
  • Water Infrastructure: Information on Federal and State Financial Assistance (Government Accountability Office, 2001)+
    • From FY 1991 through FY 2000, nine federal agencies made available about $44 billion, in a variety of forms, for drinking water and wastewater capital improvements while State governments made a total of about $25 billion in state funds available. Read the complete document
  • Clear & Safe Water for the 21st Century: A Renewed National Commitment to Water and Wastewater Infrastructure (Water Infrastructure Network, 2000)+
    • The WIN Coalition catalogued a $23 billion a year funding gap between current investment in infrastructure and the investments that will be needed annually over the next 20 years to replace aging and failing pipes and meet mandates of the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act. Read the complete document

Investment Benefits

  • Risk of Viral Acute Gastrointestinal Illness from Nondisinfected Drinking Water Distribution Systems (American Chemical Society Journal Environmental Science & Technology, 2012)+
    • Insufficient financial investments have been made to improve water infrastructure, and small systems are particularly at risk for lack of funds and personnel. As most of the national water distribution infrastructure is reaching the end of its design life in the coming decades, the frequency and health impacts of distribution system deficiencies will likely worsen. Read the complete document here or here.
  • Sewage Exfiltration as a Source of Storm Drain Contamination During Dry Weather in Urban Watersheds (American Chemical Society Journal Environmental Science & Technology, 2011)+
    • This study is the first to provide direct evidence that leaking sanitary sewers can directly contaminate nearby leaking storm drains with untreated sewage during dry weather and suggests that chronic sanitary sewer leakage contributes to downstream fecal contamination. Read the complete document at:
  • Local Government Investment in Municipal Water and Sewer Infrastructure: Adding Value to the National Economy (U.S. Conference of Mayors, 2008)+
  • Water Works: Rebuilding Infrastructure, Creating Jobs, Greening the Environment (Green for All, 2011)+
    • The report looks at an investment of $188.4 billion in water infrastructure – the amount the EPA indicates would be required to manage stormwater and preserve water quality. That investment would inject a quarter of a trillion dollars into the economy, create nearly 1.3 million direct and indirect jobs and result in 568,000 additional jobs from increased spending. Read the complete document here:

Water Trust Fund

  • Clear Waters: Why America Needs a Clean Water Trust Fund (Food and Water Watch, 2007)+
    • Compares the findings from the EPA Gap Analysis with the historical fundings of the Clean Water SRF to conclude that a Clean Water Trust Fund is needed and explains the mechanics behind one. Read the complete documenthere. The report is also accompanied by a detailed
  • Water Infrastructure Now: Recommendations for Clean and Safe Water in the 21st Century (Water Infrastructure Network, 2001)+
    • Recommends a series of public and private actions that will be needed to meet the challenges for funding water and wastewater infrastructure over the coming


"Tax Reform and Tax Provisions Affecting State & Local Governments"
House Committee on Ways and Means
March 19, 2013
AGC Statement

"Review of Innovative Financing Approaches for Community Water Infrastructure Projects"
Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment
House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure
February 28, 2012
AGC Statement

"Our Nation's Water Infrastructure: Challenges and Opportunities"
Subcommittee on Water & Wildlife
Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works
December 13, 2011
AGC Statement

"Opportunities and Challenges in the Creation of a Clean Water Trust Fund"
Subcommittee on Water Resources & the Environment
House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure
July 15, 2009
AGC Statement

"The Need for Renewed Investment for Clean Water Infrastructure"
Subcommittee on Water Resources & the Environment
House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure
January 19 2007
AGC Statement

"Financing Water Infrastructure Projects"
Subcommittee on Water Resources & the Environment
House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure
June 8, 2005
AGC Statement

Additional Resources

Xylem Value of Water Report - opinion surveys on american attitudes toward water infrastructure

Xylem Infographic

Water Is Your Business

Water For Jobs

Growing Blue

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