Unfortunately, like much of our nation’s infrastructure, water and wastewater infrastructure in the United States is in dire need of investment. And although the challenge to our water infrastructure has been less visible than other infrastructure concerns, it’s no less important.
- The American Society of Civil Engineers gave our nation’s water infrastructure a “D” and wastewater infrastructure a “D+” in its 2017 Infrastructure Report Card1
- According to the EPA, there are about 240,000 water main breaks every year across the U.S.2
- The EPA has estimated that more than $600 billion is needed for water infrastructure improvements across the country over the next 20 years.2
- Six billion gallons of treated drinking water are lost daily due to leaking pipes, which is 14-18 percent of each day’s treated water; enough to support 15 million households1
Part of the issue is that the United States has more than 1 million miles of water pipe, many of which were laid in the early 20th century and are in critical need of replacement. And with utilities averaging a pipe replacement rate of 0.5 percent per year, it will take an estimated 200 years to replace an entire system – nearly double the useful life of the pipes1.
A leader in infrastructure investment
At Aqua, we are working to be a part of the solution to this challenge. We are committed to renewing and improving water and wastewater infrastructure through thoughtful and continuous capital investment. By leveraging our compliance expertise, purchasing power and operational efficiencies, we have infused needed capital and resources into the systems we own and acquire to rehabilitate the infrastructure required for reliable drinking water and efficient wastewater services. It’s a responsibility about which we feel strongly – and it’s why we have invested more than $2 billion in infrastructure improvements and replaced more than 800 miles aging of water main since 2012.
Part of the challenge is that the U.S. has a very fragmented network of aging water systems. There are more than 150,000 water systems in our country that serve nearly 320 million Americans. Most Americans – just under 300 million people – receive their drinking water from one of the nation’s 51,000 community water systems, many of which are municipally managed. While many of municipally-managed systems are well run, there are also many that are facing serious compliance challenges, thanks to aging water and wastewater infrastructure, increasingly stringent drinking water and wastewater regulations, and budgetary constraints.
For municipalities, it’s not an easy job to prioritize competing budget needs, and it is easy to overlook the state of pipes in favor of other priorities. But prolonging an investment in water infrastructure is a risky decision that can have serious consequences on the safety and reliability of a water system over time. We are proud to play a leading role in providing solutions for water and wastewater systems that are struggling with these challenges.
Fair market value legislation
New legislation has helped in our effort to work with municipalities. Fair market valuation legislation in Pennsylvania, Illinois, New Jersey, Indiana, and North Carolina allows regulated water companies like Aqua to pay a fair market amount for municipal water and wastewater systems. This benefits local governments, customers and the environment. Prior to the passage of this legislation, utilities were often restricted to including only the original depreciated cost into their rate base, which became a regulatory barrier to a sale. For Aqua, purchasing private and municipally owned systems is about more than growth — it also allows us to do our part to strengthen water and wastewater infrastructure in communities across the United States.
Aqua has invested in significant infrastructure improvements to the Pelham Manor water system since we first acquired the troubled water system in 2010.
Since 2010, we have invested $750,000 to upgrade the system, including installing treatment on the system’s wells to remove volatile organic compounds, iron and manganese that plagued the water system for years. We also installed new 5,000 and 10,000-gallon storage tanks, and a larger water main to connect the pump stations and improve pressure and flow for customers.
"I’ve lived in Pelham Manor since 1961 and ever since I can remember, there were problems with the drinking water. The pressure was always low. Whenever there was a main break, we got mud in the water. I stopped drinking it at least 20 years ago, maybe 30. I bought filters for my water pitcher which were supposed to be changed every other month, but I couldn’t get one to last more than a month. The previous owner of the system would try to fix the problem with chemicals, but that only made the water smell. What we really needed was new pipes.
With Aqua’s improvements, the water is safe and pressure is good. There’s no more sediment in my pitcher. My daughter lives in England and when she came to visit after Aqua made the repairs, she noticed a change in the water, particularly the fact that it no longer smelled like chemicals. Now that we have pressure, my son says our home is now his favorite place to shower."
Doris Brandt, Pelham Manor Resident