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Estimates of 20-year water needs.

The some 55,000 community water systems in the U.S. will require upgrades totaling some $138.4 billion over the next two decades if they are to continue supplying safe drinking water to their 243 million customers, the EPA-sponsored Drinking Water Infrastructure Need Survey revealed recently.

Needed work includes installing, upgrading or replacing infrastructure. In the past two years, the EPA and other supporting organizations asked community water systems to document their infrastructure improvement needs for the next 20 years. The survey revealed that the nation's systems must spend $21.1 billion just to meet current Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) requirements. Current needs include capital costs for projects needed now to ensure compliance with existing SDWA regulations.

Treatment for microbiological contaminants under SDWA accounts for 84 percent of the current SDWA need. Microbiological contaminants, regulated under the Surface Water Treatment Rule and Total Coliform Rule, can lead to gastrointestinal illness and, in extreme cases, to death. The need is for construction of new infrastructure at systems not now in compliance, and for replacement of existing infrastructure which no longer functions adequately. In addition, almost $200 million is needed to meet standards for nitrate, which can cause acute health effects in children, and $1.7 billion for contaminants posing chronic health risks.

It is important to note that the current SDWA need is overstated because SDWA projects often include components that are not required for compliance, but are undertaken at the same time to realize savings in design and building costs. State and local requirements also contribute to need estimates. The survey was a joint effort of drinking water utilities, state drinking water regulatory agencies, the EPA, representatives of American Indian and Alaskan Native tribes, and the Indian Health Service. Larger systems participated through a mail survey, while drinking water professionals made on-site determinations of need for 537 systems serving 3,300 or fewer people. EPA and state drinking water regulators reviewed each system's estimates and supporting documents to ensure the validity and accuracy of proposed projects and costs. A copy of the survey is available by calling the Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791.

"U.S. Systems' 20-Year Need Tops $138 Billion."Water World, March 1997.

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Author:Billings, Clayton H.
Publication:Public Works
Date:Jun 1, 1997
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