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New Report Shows U.S. Water Systems Dangerously Behind on Capital Improvements

A new report from Bluefield Research – “Looking to 2020 and Beyond: Key Trends and Perspectives in Global Water Markets” found an increasing gap between needs and actual investments in America’s water infrastructure.

As Bluefield reports, overall capital investments – the funds spent to support repairs and replacement of infrastructure like water mains, pumps, and treatment facilities – have fallen precipitously since 2009 and now sit at a 20-year low.

However, water companies continue to proactively invest in their systems. The investment by the five largest water companies has increased by an average of 51 percent since 2015.

The shortfall between what U.S. water systems are actually spending on infrastructure compared to what they need to spend is around $80 billion per year.

This decline comes at a time when both the Environmental Protection Agency and the American Society of Civil Engineers, among others, have said that capital expenditures need to be ramping up to address severely aging water and wastewater infrastructure.

Groups like Food & Water Watch and Corporate Accountability have argued against leveraging private sector investment, making it harder for cities and municipalities to find the funding for infrastructure improvements. These groups claim there is not a role for the private sector to help America’s cities and towns address their urgent water and wastewater infrastructure challenges.

Water companies provide service to 73 million American and offer the capital needed for infrastructure improvements. The top 10 water companies in the United States invest more than $3 billion every year on infrastructure for community water systems – more than all of the federal government’s appropriation for the two major water infrastructure funding programs combined. NAWC members also advocate for policies that allow for more effective and efficient investment in America’s water infrastructure, such as state-level Fair Market Value legislation and the federal Voluntary Water Partnerships for Distressed Communities Act of 2019.

The Bluefield report confirms the capital need for water and wastewater infrastructure is growing, along with the case for cities and towns to partner with a water company.

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