Report Finds 30 Utilities Will Contribute $524 Billion to Economy

AECOM has produced a new report that examines the value of investment in water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure in the U.S. economy.

Released by the Water Research Foundation (WRF) and the Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF), the report is titled, ?National Economic and Labor Impacts of the Water Utility Sector.? The executive report can be downloaded from the WRF website at

The report was the basis for a Congressional briefing in Washington D.C., on Sept. 10, 2014 that featured Alexander Quinn, AECOM director of sustainable economics. At the briefing, a coalition of water and wastewater providers, public officials, private sector leaders and national organizations presented how water infrastructure projects are putting people to work and growing local and regional economies.

It is widely accepted and sometimes taken for granted that water, wastewater and stormwater utilities significantly contribute to public health, business development and the environment. What is not as well understood is how these same utilities support the local and national economy by providing jobs, building reliable infrastructure and supporting technological advancement with clean and reliable water systems. The WRF/WERF study contributes to the overall discussion of the value of water by focusing on the economic impacts associated with water, wastewater and stormwater service operations and capital investments.

?In the context of national infrastructure for water and wastewater that is aging and failing, it?s important to understand the impacts of new investment ? and the implications of continued neglect ? so leaders and the public can make informed decisions,? said Quinn. ?Water infrastructure often goes overlooked, yet it is a backbone of communities and local economies.?

The AECOM team studied 30 large public utilities that provide water, wastewater and stormwater service to 83 million people (25 percent of the U.S. population) and identified the benefits of investment that include jobs and national economic growth. Over the next decade, the 30 water utilities plan to spend an aggregate total of $23 billion per year for operations and capital expenditures. These plans represent the utilities? ongoing commitment to provide safe, clean, and affordable services to their clients and to the public.

Approximately 60 percent of projected spending is attributable to the ongoing operation of the utilities and 40 percent is for capital infrastructure investments to maintain systems in a state of good repair. As the $23 billion of direct spending on operations and maintenance is released into the larger economy, it is re-spent by workers and suppliers, generating additional positive economic output. Output refers to the market value of goods and services produced directly by the utilities in this study and indirectly by their expenditures and employee wages.

In other words, the utilities? initial expenditures for materials, services and labor (their direct effects) are transferred to other businesses and their employees. These businesses and their employees then engage in additional spending for materials and services (their indirect and induced effects).

Thus, from 2014 to 2023, the operating and capital expenditures of the participating utilities will generate $52 billion per year in total annual economic output across the United States. This results in a national economic contribution of $524 billion over the next decade supporting approximately 289,000 permanent jobs. These jobs encompass employment that will be provided by the utilities (their direct effects) and within other industries that are supported by utility expenditures and employee wages (their indirect and induced effects).

The report was produced by an AECOM economics team Alexander Quinn, Christine Safriet, Vanessa Lauf and Kevin Feeney and designer Thia Buggia. To learn more or to view the full report, visit

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