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Water infrastructure needs billions in investment, US budget office says

WASHINGTON Drinking water and wastewater infrastructure investment costs over the next 20 years may range from $492 billion to $820 billion, according to a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report released Wednesday.

The Environment and Energy Daily website said the CBO figures closely mirror a recent analysis from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

On the high end, the CBO analysis also reflects a February 2001 report from the Water Infrastructure Network (WIN), a coalition of industry, engineering, professional and environmental groups, the article said.

Water and wastewater infrastructure was much discussed this year on Capitol Hill, but Congress took little action due to uncertainty surrounding the overall financial need, Bush administration opposition and a range of other controversial items that come into play, the article said.

Industry officials and analysts continue to predict a substantial increase in spending needs over the next two decades to maintain and improve the nation's aging system of underground pipes, treatment plants, storage facilities and other components.

In the report, CBO noted the difficulty in making estimates because of uncertainty surrounding future regulatory requirements and technological breakthroughs, as well as the lack of a national database to gauge the age and condition of existing infrastructure, said the article.

CBO's study covers a 20-year period from 2000 to 2019 and makes its high-end and low-end estimates in 2001 dollars, measuring in terms of costs as financed.

According to the article, the final figures take into account a water system's use of borrowing to spread out the burden on its ratepayers over time.

EPA's Clean Water and Drinking Water Gap Analysis report released in September contained similar infrastructure costs range from $499 billion to $929 billion.

WIN compiled only a high-end, $806 billion estimate in its February 2001 report.

Addressing the so-called gap, which represents current spending minus future capital spending needs, CBO projects a $60 billion to $388 billion range, according to the article.

CBO did not factor operations and maintenance into its analysis. For comparison, EPA's gap without O&M showed a $77 billion to $444 billion range, the article said.

To view a copy of the CBO report, click here.

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