Policy Studies Infrastructure Deployment

Reducing the costs of municipal water infrastructure

Cities across the country are facing crippling water infrastructure replacement costs, which are exacerbated by regulations requiring them to use outdated materials and technologies. By adopting performance-based standards, cities can save money by picking better pipe materials or installing green infrastructure.

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According to the EPA, over the next 20 years, the United States faces hundreds of billions of dollars in water infrastructure liabilities. Local governments across the country are grappling with the challenge of responding to ongoing water main breaks while simultaneously making the long-term investments that are necessary to sustain their systems going forward. These contradictory fiscal pressures are further exacerbated by the need for many of these localities to make expensive upgrades that separate combined sewer-storm water overflow systems to comply with the Clean Water Act. As governments and utilities engage this challenge, there is a significant need for creative cost-containment strategies that can make each dollar stretch further.

Unfortunately, even though the need for savings is growing ever greater, many decision-makers are bound by legacy statutes and rules that encourage or even require inefficient water infrastructure investments. However, by systematically introducing competitive infrastructure policies that are performance oriented and open to innovation—rather than narrowly tailored to the specifications of past practices—governments can mitigate their unfunded liabilities while continuing to deliver effective and reliable water services.


Image credit: karanpon pariwuthiphong

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