Infrastructure: Investment in Our Future

March 11, 2021
Welcome to the March 2021 issue of WaterWorld magazine.
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By the time this issue of WaterWorld has been published, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) will have released its quadrennial Report Card for America’s Infrastructure. And, if the 2021 report is anything like the grades received in 2019, where drinking water infrastructure was graded a D and wastewater infrastructure a D+, we are in trouble.

It is no secret that our nation’s water and wastewater infrastructure needs work; today, ASCE estimates that a water main breaks every two minutes somewhere in the U.S. Drought, emerging contaminants, and changing customer needs will only increase the pressure on our infrastructure systems. The need for investment has never been greater.

RELATED: Report Card reveals infrastructure picture for water, wastewater

This month’s cover story shows that beyond providing much needed repair to our system of pipes and pumps, investing in water and wastewater infrastructure will improve quality of life for all Americans.

“When carried out carefully and strategically using a risk-based approach, making capital investments in our water infrastructure can result in major improvements without compromising customer affordability,” American Water’s David Choate writes. On page 10, he argues that the national renewal cycle for water and wastewater pipes (currently at approximately 200 years) should be increased to meet today’s demands.

On top of making much needed repairs to deteriorating systems, routine maintenance can prolong the life of equipment in our plants, too. For wastewater treatment facilities, that means ensuring that grit removal equipment is performing to spec. Grit that’s allowed to pass to other parts of the plant can accumulate in undesirable areas, causing abrasive wear, poor performance, and expensive maintenance. Performance testing, where available, can ensure that your equipment is performing the way it should. Read more on page 16.

For drinking water distribution systems, pressure transients can have a serious impact on both service quality and asset life, with the cost of repairing a single break ranging from $10,000 to $25,000. That is why California’s East Valley Water District began evaluating the existence and severity of pressure transients with smart pressure monitors and a GIS system to pinpoint leaks or other pressure-reducing incidents on a water main heat map. On page 20, learn how the utility continues to monitor trouble spots, line break events, and customer pressure concerns to assess the results of their network-calming project.

With revisions to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Lead and Copper Rule finalized, drinking water utilities will need to improve their operations to comply with the new rules. Under the new changes, drinking water providers will need to identify the most impacted areas in their system, and deliver a publicly available inventory of lead service lines. Utilities will also be required to find and fix sources of lead when a sample in a home exceeds 15 ppb. More of the rule’s changes and their impact to drinking water utilities are detailed on page 22.

While some state-specific results for infrastructure grades are already rolling in, I believe that our industry has the will and the knowledge to keep our water flowing. Water and wastewater workers are resilient, hardworking and an essential part of our infrastructure picture. No matter what our report card tells us this month, we can take that information and begin working toward the future today.

Thanks for reading! WW

About the Author

Alanna Maya | Chief Editor

Alanna Maya is a San Diego State University graduate with more than 15 years of experience writing and editing for national publications. She was Chief Editor for WaterWorld magazine, overseeing editorial, web and video content for the flagship publication of Endeavor's Water Group. In addition, she was responsible for Stormwater magazine and the StormCon conference.

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