On Nov. 15, President Joe Biden signed a bill that allocated $1.2 trillion for infrastructure, including $55 billion for water pipe upgrades, investments in clean drinking water, and water recycling programs as well as $65 billion to strengthen the electrical grid.
Steve Gilbreath, vice president and business group director of civil engineering firm Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam, answered some questions from Pumps & Systems on how the bill will affect the pump industry.
How will the passage of this bill impact infrastructure related to the pumps industry, particularly water/wastewater?
The money being injected should increase pump demand. While it doesn’t mean manufacturers will be able to deliver them fast enough, the demand will certainly be higher. Consequently, pump prices may go higher until the supply chain issues subside and demand normalizes.
Was there anything not included in this bill that you would want to see addressed in the future?
We need more details to answer this question. We know how much money is going to be spent and how it is going to be spent, but we don’t know the timing. Because this bill is different from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds [which allocates money directly to cities and counties], more details need to be ironed out.
Do you think there was any industry fallout because of the bill’s delay in Congress?
From our clients’ perspective, they slowed down a bit. However, regardless of the bill, clients are not getting their equipment and material supplies fast enough due to the supply chain crisis. Valves, pumps, materials and other necessary equipment are not only more expensive to purchase but are also taking more time.
How could you see the passage of the bill impacting employment needs?
With more money available to spend on infrastructure, employment opportunities will increase. This will likely increase wages for employees, but it also will put a strain on the employment market right now.
Do you foresee any additional challenges in the supply chain if the infrastructure bill increases demand?
Based on our clients’ feedback, the supply chain crisis has created quite a few challenges for them. One client I talked to said the minute they use a piece of equipment, they are immediately ordering and restocking because they do not know when they are going to get the equipment. Due to the inability to get equipment, the prices are also going up.
If the supply chain remedies itself, it will solve some of the issues. There are some areas, like valves, where the situation may improve based on discussions we have had internally, but I do not think that is widely the case.
What can end users and engineers in the pumps industry expect as far as opportunities or changes in their day-to-day jobs?
I think it will positively influence the number of projects, both in design and construction. There is going to be a heavy demand on construction because of the first round of funding [$350 billion through the ARPA] and now the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The demand for labor will also increase, which will create a need for more engineering professionals in our business. As far as the end users are concerned, everything is going to cost more money and engineers should adjust cost estimates to current market conditions.