The nation’s water and wastewater infrastructure systems are in trouble. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, the country’s drinking water infrastructure system is comprised of 2.2 million miles of pipes; the wastewater infrastructure has over 1 million miles of public and private sewers. Many of these systems are approaching the end of their lifespan and are in dire need of upgrades or replacement; however, being largely out of sight keeps them out of mind for much of the public until calamities occur, such as those witnessed in Flint, Michigan.
These issues are not out of mind for water professionals. For the ninth year, the American Water Works Association (AWWA) State of the Water Industry Report shows that for more than 3,000 survey respondents in the water sector, the top two challenges remain renewal and replacement of aging water and wastewater infrastructure and financing for capital improvements. The recently passed Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will aid these challenges as it includes $50 billion for water and wastewater infrastructure projects throughout the country to be allocated over five years.
The debate leading up to the funding approval for the infrastructure act has served to highlight the issues facing the country’s water and waste systems and the importance of these systems to the health and growth of communities. A Bluefield Research report entitled U.S. Water & Sewer Pipe Network Infrastructure: Market Trends and Forecasts, 2022–2030 released in February found that municipal utilities throughout the country are planning to spend over $104 billion in infrastructure hardware and equipment by 2030, with Texas, California, Florida, and North Carolina leading the projected spending. This spending is attributed not only to the infrastructure funding but also to new housing and low interest rates. Further, the report shows that over half of the money spent (64 percent) will go toward new “greenfield network infrastructure” and the balance toward “replacement and rehabilitation” of existing infrastructure, which indicates that materials utilized will shift toward new materials (plastics) and away from the iron and steel used in existing systems.
Although the funding will be available to begin many projects, supply chain issues associated with the pandemic shutdown will likely delay projects and the resulting inflationary market conditions will certainly increase costs.
 “State of the Water Industry 2021 Executive Summary.” AWWA.org, www.awwa.org/Portals/0/AWWA/ETS/Resources/Technical%20Reports/AffordabilityAssessmentTool.pdf?ver=2021-05-21-125018-720.
 “Utilities to Spend $104B on Hardware, Equipment by 2030.” Water World, 1 Mar. 2022, www.waterworld.com/water-utility-management/press-release/14234760/utilities-to-spend-104b-on-hardware-equipment-by-2030.