EPA Says $277 Billion Needed by Utilities
For Infrastructure During Next 20 Years
utilities will need about $277 billion for infrastructure construction,
upgrades, and replacement during the next 20 years, according to a survey
released by the Environmental Protection Agency June 14.
The assessment in Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs Survey and
Assessment: Third Report to Congress exceeds the agency's previous two estimates
of 1995 and 1999 by more than 60 percent, EPA said.
The higher figure in the 2003 study is due to refinements in surveying
techniques and a greater participation by states than in previous surveys, an
EPA press officer told BNA June 15. "Therefore, EPA received both more and
higher quality reports from those states," he said.
The higher quality reports include previously underreported
needs for infrastructure rehabilitation and replacement, according to EPA.
Allocation of Loan Money
The needs surveys are used by EPA to allocate federal funds from
the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) to states based on their needs.
With these allocations, states then make low-interest loans to water utilities
for infrastructure projects and source water protection activities.
The need surveys are required every four years under the Safe
Drinking Water Act.
Since the SRF began in 1997, EPA has made nearly $8 billion in
federal funds available to states, the agency said. For fiscal year 2006, EPA
requested $850 million for the revolving fund.
In its 1999 needs survey, released in March 2001, EPA estimated
that about $165.5 billion would be needed for infrastructure for the years
1999-2018 and in the 1997 survey, released in 1999, put the need at $167.4
billion, the agency said (43 DEN A-1, 3/5/01).
EPA Tries to Narrow Gap
Although the SRF can help finance infrastructure projects, it
will not begin to cover total costs. For example, the Water Infrastructure
Network estimates about $220 billion over 20 years is needed for drinking water
infrastructure, Adam Krantz, a spokesman for the National Association of Clean
Water Agencies, told BNA June 15.
The Water Infrastructure Network (WIN) comprises drinking water
and wastewater utilities, municipal organizations, environmental groups, and
EPA has estimated the gap between what is needed for
infrastructure and what is available to be $535 billion over the next 20 years.
The 2003 needs survey "reemphasizes our commitment to
sustainability and flexibility as important tools for narrowing the gap,"
Benjamin Grumbles, assistant EPA administrator for water, told BNA June 15.
Because more federal funding for infrastructure may not be
forthcoming, in recent years EPA has advocated other methods to ensure drinking
water utilities meet federal standards.
The 2003 survey "reemphasizes our tools of sustainability,
particularly asset management, and water efficiency--all important components to
water sustainability," Grumbles said.
Other tools for sustainability include collecting better data on
infrastructure condition and long-term planning for rehabilitation and
replacement, according to the report.
Reflects Needs of 74,400 Utilities
The 2003 needs survey, based on data collected in 2003, reflects
the infrastructure needs of the approximate 53,000 community water systems and
21,400 not-for-profit noncommunity water systems, EPA said.
To collect data for the survey, EPA said it sent questionnaires to all of the
United States' 1,041 large utilities--those serving more than 50,000 people.
The agency also sent questionnaires to all U.S. medium systems,
those serving between 40,001 and 50,000 people, the report said.
A random sample of 2,553 of 7,337 systems serving 3,301 to
40,000 people also was conducted, the agency said. About 96 percent of all
questionnaires were completed and returned, according to EPA.
EPA's third Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs Survey and
Assessment: Third Report to Congressis available at
By Patricia Ware