EPA Says Much of California and U.S. Water Systems Are Near End of “Useful Life”

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that the country will need to spend $384.2 billion over the next 20 years to upgrade the infrastructure necessary to provide Americans with clean drinking water, and more than 11% of that work needs to be done in California.

“The survey released today shows that the nation's water systems have entered a rehabilitation and replacement era in which much of the existing infrastructure has reached or is approaching the end of its useful life,” EPA Assistant Administrator Bob Perciasepe said in a statement.

The EPA findings (pdf) are based on a survey conducted in 2011, which relied primarily on statistics gathered from approximately 3,165 public water systems. The survey is conducted every four years, and all five completed surveys showed California to be the neediest state by far.

It was estimated in 1995, the first year of the survey, that California would have to spend $30.9 billion over 20 years. That dropped to $26 billion in 1999, rose to $37.9 billion in 2003 and hit $44.3 billion in 2007.

The lion’s share of California’s $44.5 billion suggested expenditures, as with the rest of the country, is for “transmission and distribution.” Local and state governments here need to spend $26.7 billion on their vast underground networks of water supply pipes. Water treatment projects, totaling $8.4 billion were next on the list, followed by storage ($6 billion), source improvements ($2.5 billion) and miscellaneous improvements ($325 million).     

California was followed on the EPA list by Texas ($33.9 billion), New York ($22 billion), Illinois ($19 billion), Florida ($16.5 billion), Pennsylvania ($14.2 billion) and Michigan ($13.8 billion).

The 1996 Safe Drinking Water Act amendments dictated that the survey findings by the EPA are to be used in allocating money from the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) capitalization grants to states. The fund has distributed nearly $15 billion in grants to all 50 states and Puerto Rico since ints inception in 1997.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

California Tops List of States with Water Infrastructure Needs (by Bettina Boxall, Los Angeles Times)

EPA: Spend Billions to Upgrade Aging Water Systems (by Matthew Daly, Associated Press)

EPA Releases Survey Showing $384 Billion Needed for Drinking Water Infrastructure (by Pat Ware, Bloomberg BNA)

Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs Survey and Assessment (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) (pdf)

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