Bringing the Water Infrastructure Discussion Above-Ground
We all need it, and we all want clean water to come out of our faucets. Unfortunately, our aging infrastructure system threatens the delivery of that necessary, clean water. The underground pipes are reaching the end of their useful lives. The decline of these systems means more water disruptions, more contaminated water, and less reliable delivery of water to our ever-growing population. The cost of repairing and replacing our water and waste water systems will only continue to grow the longer we wait.
On February 28th, Aurel Arndt, general manager of Lehigh County Authority, spoke before the House Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment on behalf of the American Water Works Association (AWWA). Aurel is no stranger to the need to rejuvenate our water infrastructure; he has worked for the Lehigh County Authority since 1974. During his service, he has seen the decline in our community’s water infrastructure. Aurel highlighted the large, yet absolutely necessary, expense to restore the buried drinking water systems as well as the above-ground drinking water facilities, waste water, storm water, and other water-related infrastructure in his remarks to the subcommittee. The cost for such an overhaul is well over $1 trillion, but the ultimate cost for letting our water infrastructure deteriorate further and attempting expensive emergency repairs without a feasible solution will be much more costly.
AWWA recently released a report entitled, “Buried No Longer: Confronting America’s Water Infrastructure Challenge.” The report focused on the need to address the current water infrastructure nearing the end of its useful life. It succeeds AWWA’s report, “Dawn of the Replacement Era,” in which AWWA first noted hat the time had come for our water systems to be replaced before they completely fall apart. (This report and other AWWA material can be found on our website at www.renewlv.org/water.)
In his remarks, Aurel and AWWA endorsed a new approach to funding the overhaul of our water infrastructure– the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA). The act is modeled after the highly successful Transportation Infrastructure and Innovation Act (TIFIA). WIFIA would lower the cost of infrastructure investment and alter the financing process so that communities would be able to afford the necessary replacements in their water systems. WIFIA would “assist communities in meeting the nation’s water infrastructure needs in a manner that would have minimal cost to the federal government while complementing existing financial mechanisms, maintaining the current federal role, leveraging private capital, and creating vital manufacturing and construction jobs.” The entire program would provide a feasible solution for communities to address the water infrastructure problem, while also providing a cleaner environment and greater quality of life for residents. (Read Aurel Arndt’s full statement.)
Renew Lehigh Valley has encouraged a regional and cooperative approach to the water infrastructure challenges facing the Lehigh Valley. The WIFIA legislation would provide a means for cost efficient solutions to be developed for the communities within the Lehigh Valley, while also fostering a mindset of sustainable growth and development. Water is vital to our existence. It’s time to bring the discussion about our water infrastructure challenges above-ground and address them as an entire Lehigh Valley.