For immediate release Dec. 15, 2004
Contact: Elaine Matthews, (919) 250-4314
Center study finds North Carolina facing $15 billion in water & sewer needs by
RALEIGH - The N.C. Rural Economic Development
Center today released initial findings of a yearlong water resource study that
reveals infrastructure needs in North Carolina will reach $7 billion in just
five years and $15 billion by 2030. More than 100 water resource leaders and
professionals from around the state attended a briefing in Raleigh today to hear
The assessment of the state's public water, sewer and storm water infrastructure
was conducted as part of the center's Water 2030 Initiative, a comprehensive
water resource study launched in March to arm state leaders with information
essential to spurring job growth, protecting the environment and preserving
quality of life in North Carolina through 2030. Current data indicate that one
in four public water systems in the state will be nearly tapped out within five
"There are literally hundreds of communities across North Carolina that have
substantial infrastructure needs and do not have the tax base to pay for these
expensive water and sewer projects," said Rural Center President Billy Ray Hall.
"It's a very real concern, because without clean water you simply can't have
economic development and job creation, and you certainly can't have a good
quality of life."
Hall called news of the state's capital needs 'a staggering wake-up call' that
will require decisive action through short- and long-term planning on the part
of state and local leadership. The findings come at a precarious time, both for
the state economy which is transitioning away from its declining manufacturing
base, and for rural communities that depend on grants from the Clean Water Bonds
approved by voters in 1998, Hall said. The bonds, which will be fully expended
in February 2005, help rural and economically distressed communities pay for the
planning, building and repair of water and wastewater systems.
The Water 2030 Initiative includes three primary components:
* An update of the water and sewer database completed by the Rural Center in
* The creation of a state water supply and demand assessment (known as a water
budget), with projections for 2005 through 2030; and
* An aggressive public education and outreach effort to build the understanding
of and appreciation for water resources among all the citizens of the state.
"This is the most comprehensive study of water resources ever conducted by the
State of North Carolina and probably of any state on the eastern seaboard," said
project director Jean Crews-Klein, the center's vice-president for business and
natural resource development. "This study will likely be the model for other
states that, like North Carolina, are faced with serious water resource
challenges and need to obtain the data necessary to inform state leaders and
initiate new public policies."
Crews-Klein said that with the 100-county assessment of water and sewer systems
completed, the next deliverable will be county-level infrastructure data in
early 2005. Later in the year, the center will conduct extensive public
education and outreach and hold a statewide water resources conference to
release a final report of findings.
The center conducted the state's first inventory of public water and sewer
facilities in 1996, revealing $11.3 billion in water infrastructure needs
statewide. That study was the basis for the 1998 Clean Water Bond Act. At the
direction of the N.C. General Assembly, the center has invested $240 million in
water and wastewater projects in more than 300 rural communities to date as part
of the bond program.
The total cost of the Water 2030 Initiative is estimated at more than $2
million. To date, the Rural Center has received two grants from the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), one for
$1 million and the second for $200,000; a $500,000 grant from the N.C. Clean
Water Management Trust Fund; and a $200,000 appropriation by the N.C. General
Assembly. In addition, the center is contributing $300,000 of its own funds to
the effort. The center has contracted with engineering firms Hobbs Upchurch &
Associates, P.A., and McGill Associates, P.A. to conduct the project's field
work, and with AMEC Earth and Environmental for water resource services.
To learn more about the Rural Center's WATER 2030 Initiative, contact project
director Jean Crews-Klein at (919) 250-4314.
The N.C. Rural Economic Development Center is a private, non-profit organization
whose mission is to develop sound economic strategies that improve the quality
of life in rural North Carolina, with a special focus on individuals with low to
moderate incomes and communities with limited resources. The center operates a
multi-faceted program that includes conducting research into rural issues;
testing promising rural development strategies; advocating for policy and
program innovations; and building the productive capacity of rural leaders,
entrepreneurs and community organizations.