The top water sector challenges in AWWA’s 2022 State of the Industry report

worker at treatment plant

Continued impacts from the ongoing global pandemic, concerns about drought and water contaminants, and workforce shortages were the key issues identified in the American Water Works Association’s (AWWA) annual State of the Water Industry report, which is now available.

Since 2004, AWWA has published the annual State of the Water Industry Report based on survey results to help water utilities, service providers, regulators and researchers identify and prepare for challenges, opportunities and trends impacting the water community.

Survey responses indicated the water sector faced challenges over supply chain and staffing shortages stemming from the ongoing global pandemic, water supply due to drought and a changing climate, and contaminants such as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and lead. Despite these challenges, the 2022 report shows water professionals’ optimism about the health of the sector is still above the 19-year average of 4.65, based on a scale of 1 (not sound) to 7 (very sound). This is slightly lower than 2021 (5.24), marking the first year-over-year dip since 2017.

“My view is that water professionals’ accomplishments were miraculous this past year, especially given the extraordinary challenges they faced. I have great confidence in the water community, and I think this is just a one-year dip in the optimism curve. I only see a positive water future,” AWWA CEO David LaFrance said.

The 2022 report provides insight into issues such as infrastructure investment, workforce pipeline and compliance challenges. Read the executive summary for a snapshot or explore the full report to view additional material, including analysis, charts, graphs, and a ranking of issues facing the water sector in 2022.

This year’s survey showed:

  • Optimism prevails in a resilient water sector
  • Infrastructure and financing are the top challenges
  • Historic federal investment in water infrastructure presents opportunities
  • Managing water supplies is a complex job
  • Utilities expect challenges covering costs through customer rates and fees
  • A need to expand water’s workforce pipeline
  • PFAS and lead and copper are the top compliance challenges

This year’s report captured feedback from 3,778 North American utility and non-utility water professionals who were surveyed between October and December 2021.

Established in 1881, the American Water Works Association is the largest nonprofit, scientific and educational association dedicated to managing and treating water, the world’s most important resource. With approximately 50,000 members, AWWA provides solutions to improve public health, protect the environment, strengthen the economy and enhance quality of life.

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