Council Pushes Design-Build for Infrastructure Recovery

President Obama’s plan to launch more than 2,600 wastewater, drinking water and sewer system projects as part of his administration’s American Reinvestment and Recovery Plan is an important step in addressing the country’s serious water issues, according to a Jan. 28 press release from the Water Design-Build Council.

“President Obama and Congressional leaders recognize the urgent need to invest in modernizing America’s water system,” said Peter W. Tunnicliffe, president of the Water Design-Build Council. “Our water systems are deteriorating rapidly. Water main breaks, sewage spills, aging water pipes, and outdated treatment facilities have created serious public health and safety issues in communities across America.”

Scientists estimate that more than 7 million people become ill each year from contaminated water, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. The country’s over-burdened and antiquated water infrastructure creates sustainability issues, too. According to the Congressional Budget Office, more than 20 percent of drinking water is lost and 1.2 trillion gallons of stormwater and wastewater overflow every year due to leaks and breaks in the 800,000 miles of water pipe and 600,000 miles of sewer lines in the United States.

President Obama has called for 2,680 water and wastewater infrastructure projects with an investment of $15 billion, but the U.S. Conference of Mayors has identified 4,029 “shovel ready” projects that could create more than 271,000 jobs in 2009 and 2010 for an investment of $23.4 billion. 

“Design-build is the most effective project delivery method for getting these water projects started and completed quickly,” said Tunnicliffe. With the design-build method, one firm assumes responsibility for design, construction, and commissioning. He said that design-build delivery is continuing to grow and now represents about 20-30 percent of all U.S. water and wastewater projects. “Those projects have been easier to manage, faster to implement, and often lower in cost than projects using the more traditional design-bid-build approach.”

Tunnicliffe said that in recent years legislation has increased the number of water agencies authorized to implement design-build projects. Examples of leading communities that have recently started or completed design-build projects include Cape Coral, Fla.; Carson, Calif.; Detroit, Mich.; Erie, Colo.; Fort Myers, Fla.; Goodyear, Ariz.; Lawrence, Mass.; Seattle, Wash.; and Valdosta, Ga. In addition, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers uses the design-build approach for many of its key projects.

The Water Design-Build Council is a not-for-profit organization seeking to advance the development and rehabilitation of the nation’s municipal water and wastewater systems through the use of the design-build method of project delivery.