Water is under attack

The population grows each year, and with it increases the need for more money, maintenance and repair on America's water and wastewater treatment infrastructure. While financial and political obstacles remain on guard, and more investigation, research and planning takes place, American water supplies and infrastructure are under attack. Water wars have begun among those seeking a supply. Terrorism is a possible threat to utilities, and around the world, water refugees, or people leaving their homes in search of clean water, are predicted to flee to safe water sources - wherever those may be.

The 2001 American Society of Civil Engineers' (ASCE) 2001 Report Card for America's Infrastructure (www.asce.org/reportcard) gave both drinking water and wastewater infrastructure a D. In order to raise that grade, a public-private partnership is needed. Twenty of the nation's largest utilities participated in the American Water Works Association's (AWWA) national survey, released in June. Dawn of the Replacement Era - Reinvesting in Drinking Water Structure (www.awwa.org/govtaff/infrastructure.pdf) is the first comprehensive assessment of drinking water infrastructure needs. According to the study, a $250 billion investment ranging from $550 to $6900 over the next thirty years per household will be needed to replace aging drinking water mains, valves and fittings. AWWA recommends that all U.S. water utilities and U.S. government form a new partnership. They also call for expansion of the current Drinking Water State Revolving Funds (SRF) or the creation of a new federal fund based solely on infrastructure.

As ASCE states, the question is not whether the federal government should take more responsibility for drinking water and wastewater treatment improvements, but how? Funding for SRFs has remained steady for the past several years, with the wastewater SRF receiving about $1.35 billion annually, and the drinking water SRF getting approximately $800 million.

The Zweig Market Intelligence Report entitled U.S. Environmental Markets: 2001-2004 (www.zweigwhite.com) identifies water supply and wastewater as two of the hottest markets through 2004. Additionally, the McIlvaine Company's Clear Solutions report (www.mcilvainecompany.com) estimated a broad water-related market in 2000 to be valued at $655 billion. Until money starts growing on trees, or until the amount of challenges are reduced at the source, the focus is on "end of the pipe" solutions. Water and Wastewater Products magazine takes a practical approach to providing the resources to do this. This second issue includes a case study by Mike Kuenzi, PE, Todd Vasey and Mike Gowan on an energy project that combines a cogen plant -- a facility that has one source of fuel and generates two forms of energy -- with a wastewater treatment plant, an article by David Laughlin and Dan Ayres, PG on a new generation of cost-effective water recycle systems for oily-water process effluents, and as always, a sea of products.

While the battle takes place to find the best way to reduce the problems before they start, it sound like "end of the pipe solutions" are where the money is - figuratively speaking, of course.

This article originally appeared in the September 2001 issue of Water & Wastewater Products, Volume 1, Number 2, page 4.

This article originally appeared in the 09/01/2001 issue of Environmental Protection.