The cost to replace U.S. drinking water pipes will top more than $1 trillion from 2011 to 2035, water experts have estimated.
A report titled “Buried No Longer: Confronting America’s Water Infrastructure Challenge” by the American Water Works Association (AWWA) also said the cost of water infrastructure replacement will exceed $1.7 trillion by 2050.
These water pipe replacement costs will double from about $13 billion a year today to almost $30 billion (in 2010 dollars) annually by the 2040s. The cost will be met primarily through higher water bills for consumers and local fees, the report said. Small communities with fewer people to share in the costs face the biggest challenge, according to the report.
“Postponing infrastructure investment in the near-term raises the overall cost and increases the likelihood of water main breaks and other infrastructure failures,” the report said. “However, the $1 trillion investment necessary through 2035 does not have to be made all at once.”
There is time to implement asset management plans and set rates that more closely reflect the cost of water service, the report said.
“The needs uncovered in ‘Buried No Longer’ are large, but they are not insurmountable,” said David LaFrance, AWWA executive director. The cost is worth it, especially “when you consider everything that tap water delivers—public health protection, fire protection, support for the economy, and the quality of life we enjoy,” he said.