wastewater infrastructure
American Society of Civil Engineers says the COVID-19 stimulus is a start, but more steps are needed.

Water utilities are reporting dramatic losses from business and industrial customers during the COVID-19 pandemic, and may incur additional losses from taking the necessary step to suspend water shutoffs, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).

The $2 trillion stimulus package passed by Congress is for immediate emergency relief, but it is meant to just keep things running during declining revenue. ASCE, in its 2017 infrastructure report card, outlined several reasons why infrastructure in the United States earned a D-plus. One main reason pertaining to the water industry was that there are an average of 240,000 water main breaks per year in the United States. The ASCE report card, which comes out every four years, says the water and wastewater infrastructure in the U.S. has a $105 billion funding gap.

ASCE would like Congress to make infrastructure spending a key part of rebuilding the economy.

As part of future COVID-19 stimulus packages, ASCE recommends the following in addition to transportation and other funding:

  • The reauthorization of the Water Resources Reform and Development (WRDA) Act to modernize the nation’s water transportation network.
  • Unlocking of infrastructure financing tools such as activity bonds, advanced refunding and more.
  • Robust funding for critical water resources infrastructure programs including the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act and safety programs concerning dams and levees.

The 2017 infrastructure grades include a D for drinking water, D-plus for energy and D-plus for wastewater. ASCE says that infrastructure is the “backbone of our economy” and that only half of what is needed has been invested. Around $2 trillion is needed, per the report card.

“We must remember that infrastructure investment is not a one-time shot in the arm,” ASCE past-president Greg Diloreto said. “We must invest in our infrastructure as it is the foundation of our quality of life and our economic prosperity.”

Diloreto also noted that ASCE has advocated for more than 20 years for an increase in infrastructure investment.