Oct 25, 2018

New Report Analyzes the State of U.S. Water Infrastructure

The report makes recommendations for improving water infrastructure development

New report investigates the state of U.S. water infrastructure
New report investigates the state of U.S. water infrastructure

RAND Corp. released a report on U.S. water and transportation infrastructure entitled, “Not Everything is Broken: The Future of U.S. Transportation and Water Infrastructure Funding and Finance.” The report takes the stance that the state of U.S. infrastructure is not as dire as it often is portrayed, while making recommendations for funding infrastructure improvement projects over the next 10 years.

“In fact, not all transportation and water infrastructure in the United States is falling apart–far from it,” said Debra Knopman, Martin Wachs, Benjamin M. Miller, Scott G. Davis and Katherine Pfrommer, the paper’s authors. “While highway, bridge and water system maintenance backlogs exist in many places, the data does not support a picture of precipitous decline in total national spending or in the condition of the assets.”

The authors state that while federal funding in water infrastructure projects may have declined, state and local governments have supplemented that funding and funds have remained stable. Additionally, while capital spending by water and wastewater utilities declined following the 2008 recession, spending has since been on the rise.

“Local governments pay for over 95% of drinking water, sewer and storm water infrastructure, with states making up most of the difference,” the study said.

The study projects that spending in the water and wastewater sector will be more than $532 billion over the course of the next 10 years, marking a 28% increase from the previous decade. The authors suggest alternate funding sources, including private investment and the reintroduction of Build America bonds.

Finally, the extensive study recommends the federal government should prioritize resilience to natural disasters and adaptation to rising sea levels and flooding. Congress should work with state and local governments in developing common standards for public-private partnerships, the study said.

“Congress should place some big bets on research, development and deployment of new technologies to support infrastructure construction and maintenance,” the study said.

RAND, a global policy think tank created in 1948, is financed by the federal government, a private endowment, corporations, universities and private individuals. The corporation is known for addressing public policy problems.