Clean Watersheds Could Cost $202 Billion Over 20 Years

WASHINGTON, DC, January 17, 2008 (ENS) – A total of $202.5 billion is the nationwide capital investment needed to control wastewater pollution for up to a 20 year period, according to a new report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA.

Delivered to Congress this week, the 2004 Clean Watersheds Needs Survey summarizes the results of the agency’s 14th national survey on the needs of publicly owned wastewater treatment works. These surveys are conducted every four years.

The 2004 estimate includes $134.4 billion for wastewater treatment and collection systems, $54.8 billion for combined sewer overflow corrections, and $9.0 billion for stormwater management.

“Water infrastructure is a lifeline for health and prosperity in communities across America,” said Assistant Administrator for Water Benjamin Grumbles. “EPA is working with our partners to promote sustainable solutions and help utilities and households save money, water and energy.”

The needs in this survey represent a $16.1 billion increase – 8.6 percent in constant 2004 dollars – over the previous report, dated 2000.

Grumbles says the increase in overall national needs is due to a combination of population growth, more protective water quality standards, and aging infrastructure.

The largest total publicly owned wastewater treatment works needs, both more than $20 billion, occur in New York and California, the survey shows.

Florida, Illinois and Ohio each have needs in excess of $10 billion.

The states with the largest needs per capita are the District of Columbia ($3,670), Hawaii ($1,660) and West Virginia ($1,400).

Urban runoff is one of the
leading causes of water
pollution in the United
States. (Photo courtesy
NOAA/NOS/Monterey Bay
National Marine Sanctuary)

Over three-fourths (76.8 percent) of the total needs reported are concentrated in 18 States, while 20 States each reported less than one percent of the total needs.

The figure of $9.0 billion for stormwater management includes the capital costs for developing and implementing municipal stormwater management programs to meet the requirements of Phases I and II of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System municipal separate storm sewer system, MS4, regulations. These needs generally do not include projects such as installing or rehabilitating storm sewers.

The largest stormwater management program needs were reported by Texas, Florida, Arizona and Minnesota, each with more than $0.9 billion in needs. Florida, Minnesota and Texas experienced the largest increase in these needs.

Recycled water distribution, a new category, surveyed for the first time in 2004, accounts for $4.3 billion in needs.

The increases in wastewater treatment needs and in sewer repair needs are due to a variety of factors. These include rehabilitation of aging infrastructure, facility improvements to meet more protective water quality standards, and in some cases, providing additional treatment capacity for handling wet-weather flows.

Most (94 percent) of this increase can be attributed to needs increases of more than $100 million each in only 92 of the 10,152 facilities with reported needs. An additional 78 facilities had needs that decreased by at least $100 million each.

The increase in stormwater management program needs is due to greater availability of planning documents as well as increased intrastate coordination between various agencies in reporting these needs. Yet the EPA says these needs are still underreported. Only 28 states and the District of Columbia submitted stormwater management program needs data.

Although local ratepayers ultimately fund most wastewater treatment needs, the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, CWSRF, is one of many supplementary federal, state and local funding sources.

From July 1, 2000, through June 30, 2004, EPA provided an annual average of $1.3 billion in grants to state CWSRF programs to assist with point and nonpoint source pollution control needs.

In the same period, states combined these CWSRF funds with state matching funds, bond proceeds and loan repayments to provide loans of approximately $4.4 billion per year to local communities.

The gap between facilities’ funding and their total needs is addressed not only by other federal, state and local funding sources, but also is expected to be increasingly addressed by activities related to EPA’s Sustainable Infrastructure Initiative.

The figures represent documented wastewater investment needs, but do not account for expected investment and revenues. Wastewater treatment utilities pay for infrastructure using revenue from rates charged to customers and may finance large projects using loans or bonds.

The EPA is working with states, tribes, utilities, and other partners to reduce the demand on infrastructure through improved asset management, improved technology, water efficiency, and watershed-based decision making.

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