Obstacles and Opportunities to Advance Innovation

Growing Blue

The American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, assigned grades of “D” to both water and wastewater infrastructure

The nation faces costly upgrades to aging and deteriorating drinking water and wastewater infrastructure. Frequent and highly publicized incidents of combined sewer overflows into rivers and streams, as well as water main breaks in the nation’s largest cities are only the most visible manifestations of this problem.

Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association (WWEMA) and the U.S. Water Alliance presented findings from a survey of the association’s members on barriers to innovation and opportunities for fostering innovation to meet increasing demands for sustainable water resources.

Among the top barriers to innovation they found were:

  • The risk averse nature of the industry;
  • The low economic value placed on water;
  • Complicated state permitting requirements.

The top recommendations were:

  • Providing federal or state variances for projects using innovative technologies;
  • Establishing a federal guarantee program for technology replacement;
  • Employing full cost pricing of water

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies are also looking at infrastructure funding and the need for reinvestment in water and wastewater infrastructure. The EPA’s Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) programs are currently the largest sources of federal assistance to states and local communities for funding the infrastructure. In fiscal year 2012, EPA funded the Clean Water SRF program $1.5 billion and the Drinking Water SRF program $918 million from congressional appropriations, however this still falls far short of the more than $1 trillion dollars that will be needed over the next 25 years to repair and expand existing infrastructure according to last year’s AWWA report.