Monday, July 22, 2024

Report: Virginia, U.S. Need More Water Infrastructure Investments

A U.S. Water Alliance report finds maintaining Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act funding in water infrastructure could reduce service disruptions to water-reliant businesses, saving them 46% over 20 years. (Adobe Stock)

WASHINGTON — Recent reports are calling on Virginia and the U.S. to invest in water infrastructure.

The U.S. Water Alliance’s Bridging the Gap report reviews two scenarios — continuing investments under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and if funding returns to previous levels. Virginia received a C+ in the American Society of Civil Engineers’ latest infrastructure report card.

Christy Harowski, Value of Water campaign director with the U.S. Water Alliance, said going back to previous spending rates isn’t a viable option.

“We’re going to have a $2.6 trillion investment gap for water in 2043, which is a huge number. But, if we continue to invest over that same period of time at IIJA spending levels, then that gap would be reduced by $125 billion,” Harowski said.

This is based on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Needs Survey showing the national water infrastructure investment gap is $91 billion and will only balloon if the bill’s levels don’t remain. She noted this continued investment at IIJA’s rates creates long-term impacts such as keeping 200,000 jobs and households saving almost $7,000 over 20 years.

One challenge with water infrastructure investments for most is that it’s out of sight, out of mind. Given local and state funds pay for a majority of water infrastructure, being proactive at a federal level means renewing the IIJA beyond its 2026 expiration. Harowski said past disinvestment has degraded existing infrastructure.

“America’s water infrastructure is largely about 100 years old,” she said. “In some places, it’s even older than that. It is well past its useful life and, as a result of that, more water mains are breaking, more pipes are leaking, and the need to repair and replace a lot of this infrastructure is greatly outpacing the investment in it.”

Investing in water infrastructure remains a key issue for voters. The Value of Water Index poll shows there is strong bipartisan support for maintaining the IIJA’s investments. Most voters surveyed would pay moderate rate increases supporting local utility projects improving water accessibility and community health.

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