U.S. infrastructure gets D+ on ASCE’s 2017 report card

d-plus

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) released its 2017 Infrastructure Report Card last week, giving overall infrastructure in the United States a cumulative grade of D+. On the water side, wastewater scored a D+ while drinking water received a D.

Released every four years, ASCE’s Report Card for America’s Infrastructure depicts the condition and performance of American infrastructure in the familiar form of a school report card. The report addresses the state of various construction markets across the full spectrum of infrastructure, from roads, rail, aviation, ports, bridges, dams and parks, to schools, transit, energy, waste and drinking water and wastewater.

Since 1998, U.S. infrastructure has earned persistent D averages, and the failure to close the investment gap with needed maintenance and improvements has continued. But the larger question at stake is the implication of a D+ infrastructure on America’s economic future.

“Good infrastructure allows us to be more competitive in the world,” said Greg DiLoreto, chair of ASCE’s committee on America’s infrastructure. “We know work we’ve done shows that if we don’t have a competitive infrastructure, it will cost this economy $3.9 trillion in our gross domestic product.”

ASCE’s 2017 report card reveals a cumulative infrastructure investment need of roughly $4.59 trillion.

Drinking Water

Regarding drinking water infrastructure, which received a grade of D, the situation is bleak. According to the report card, drinking water is delivered via one million miles of pipes across the country. Many of those pipes were laid in the early to mid-20th century with a lifespan of 75 to 100 years. Although the quality of drinking water in the United States remains high, legacy and emerging contaminants continue to require close attention. While water consumption is down, there are still an estimated 240,000 water main breaks per year in the United States, wasting more than 2 trillion gallons of treated drinking water. The report card cites the American Water Works Association estimate that approximately $1 trillion is necessary to maintain and expand service to meet demands over the next 25 years.

The report card also notes that while drinking water infrastructure is funded primarily through a rate-based system, the investment has been inadequate for decades and will continue to be underfunded without significant changes as the revenue generated will fall short as needs grow.

Click here to view the full drinking water report.


water main break

While water consumption is down, there are still an estimated 240,000 water main breaks per year in the United States, wasting more than 2 trillion gallons of treated drinking water, according to ASCE’s 2017 report card.


Wastewater

On the wastewater side, the report card graded the nation’s clean water initiates a D+. The report notes that years of treatment plant upgrades and more stringent federal and state regulations have significantly reduced untreated releases and improved water quality nationwide. It is expected that more than 56 million new users will be connected to centralized treatment systems over the next two decades, and an estimated $271 billion is needed to meet current and future demands, according to the EPA. Through new methods and technologies that turn waste into energy, the nation’s 1,269 biogas plants will also help communities better manage waste through reuse. The report card also notes that wastewater treatment demand will increase by 23 percent by 2032.

Click here to view view the full wastewater report.


wwtp

The report card notes that wastewater treatment demand will increase by 23 percent by 2032.


This infographic from the report lays out the needs in both the drinking water and wastewater sectors, showing a $105 billion investment shortfall between 2016 and 2025.

The ASCE Committee on America’s Infrastructure, made up of 28 dedicated civil engineers from across the country with decades of expertise in all categories, volunteers their time to work with ASCE Infrastructure Initiatives staff to prepare the Infrastructure Report Card. The Committee assesses all relevant data and reports, consults with technical and industry experts, and assigns grades using the following key criteria:

Capacity: Does the infrastructure’s capacity meet current and future demands?

Condition: What is the infrastructure’s existing and near-future physical condition?

Funding: What is the current level of funding from all levels of government for the infrastructure category as compared to the estimated funding need?

Future Need: What is the cost to improve the infrastructure? Will future funding prospects address the need?

Operation and Maintenance: What is the owners’ ability to operate and maintain the infrastructure properly? Is the infrastructure in compliance with government regulations?

Public Safety: To what extent is the public’s safety jeopardized by the condition of the infrastructure and what could be the consequences of failure?

Resilience: What is the infrastructure system’s capability to prevent or protect against significant multi-hazard threats and incidents? How able is it to quickly recover and reconstitute critical services with minimum consequences for public safety and health, the economy, and national security?

Innovation: What new and innovative techniques, materials, technologies, and delivery methods are being implemented to improve the infrastructure?

For more, visit infrastructurereportcard.org.

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