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Investing in Water Infrastructure: Good for the Economy

The water infrastructure in the United States is aging and in dire need of repair and replacement, yet despite the enormous size and scope of this problem, little has been by Congress to allocate funding to keep our water and sewage systems functional. But a number of organizations are presenting the alarming facts behind the aging infrastructure to Congress—and to the American public.

On July 28, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation organized an event on Capitol Hill called “Water Infrastructure: Why Congressional Action is Urgently Needed.” A distinguished panel of subject experts and influential leaders made the case for immediate action to help solve the growing water infrastructure crisis, including Fayetteville, AR Mayor Dan Coody, co-chair of the Mayors Water Council on the U.S. Conference of Mayors. He described how his city executed an $800 million overhaul of its entire water infrastructure with almost no assistance from the federal government.

On Aug. 14, Coody took his case before the U.S. Conference of Mayors at the Mayors ’08 Action Forum on Infrastructure in New York City. Here are some of the key findings from the report issued following the forum, which illustrate the economic benefits of investing in the U.S. water and sewage infrastructure:

  • Recent estimates are that one dollar of water and sewer infrastructure investment increases private long-term output (Gross Domestic Product, GDP) by $6.35 ($1 invested yields $6.35 output)
  • The U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) estimates that for annual general revenue and spending on operating and maintaining water and sewer systems – each additional dollar of public revenue from providing water and sewer services increases revenue in all industries by $2.62 ($1 dollar invested yields $2.62 output in other industries)
  • DOC also estimates that adding one new job in local water and sewer creates 3.68 jobs in the national economy to support it.
  • An indirect benefit of local government investment in “green water and sewer infrastructure,” such as protecting one hectare (2.5 acres) of wetlands for source water protection, yields $4,177 annually in avoided water treatment costs, and another $10,000 in other eco-services categories (e.g., water supply, climate regulation, recreation, etc.).

Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, said: “National problems require national investments. The American Society of Civil Engineers grades our nation’s infrastructure at a ‘D,’ requiring a $1.6 trillion investment just to fix it. A bridge collapses in Minneapolis, steam pipes explode in Manhattan, levies burst in New Orleans … and these are not isolated incidents, they are symptoms of an underfunded national infrastructure.”

"Today’s action forum has put the spotlight on the national failure of our infrastructure policy," said New York City Mayor Bloomberg, co-chair of the national infrastructure coalition Building America's Future. "It’s a failure that has two fundamental causes, the federal government is not investing enough in our infrastructure, and, when it does, it’s not investing wisely. If America is going to remain the world’s economic superpower this must change."

On Oct. 1, Penn State Public Broadcasting will air a new 90-minute documentary called, Liquid Assets: The Story of Our Water Infrastructure. Liquid Assets is a public media and outreach initiative that seeks to inform the nation about the critical role that the water infrastructure plays in protecting public health and promoting economic prosperity. The documentary is offered to interested communities along with a community toolkit for facilitating local involvement.

"The goal of this public service media project is to stimulate community discussion and bring this issue into the public consciousness using television as a catalyst," said executive producer of the documentary, Tom Keiter. "We want 'Liquid Assets' to be more than just a broadcast."

The Valve Manufacturers Association and Valve Magazine will continue to cover this important issue. Watch the spring 2009 issue of the magazine for a major feature on this subject. If you’d like to comment on “our deteriorating water infrastructure,” please leave a comment in the Valve Industry Blog, or write to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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