Two recent reports speak to the need for investment in our nation’s infrastructure, the consequences of not addressing those needs, and the jobs that could be created. The American Water Works Association projects a need of more than $1 trillion needed for buried drinking water infrastructure between now and 2035. The report “Buried No Longer: Confronting America’s Water Infrastructure Challenge” is a call to action for utilities, consumers and policy makers. This report states that water bills will vary by community size and geographic region, but that for some communities the infrastructure costs could triple the size of a typical family’s bill. Growth concerns are greater in the South and West, while replacement concerns are greater in the Northeast and Midwest. Small communities with fewer people to share the costs face the biggest challenge. As with a home repair project, postponing the investment will only make the problem worse. As the pipes age and become more problematic, replacement costs rise, and the likelihood of a water main break or other failure increases. While the $1 trillion investment is large, it does not have to be made all at once.
Another report issued by Green For All emphasizes the jobs which would be created by investing in water and wastewater infrastructure. Sewage overflows each year dump 860 billion gallons of raw sewage into our rivers, streams, lakes, harbors and bays. That is enough to cover the state of Pennsylvania one inch deep. Investment in infrastructure has fallen by one third since its 1975 peak. Their report finds that “an investment of $188.4 billion spread equally over the next five years would generate $265.6 billion in economic activity and create close to 1.9 million jobs.” ($188.4 billion is the amount the Environmental Protection Agency indicates would be required to manage stormwater and preserve water quality.
In their report Green For All points out that the decline in America’s water infrastructure and its associated economic, health and environmental costs, needs to be reversed. The report, Water Works, says that this is an opportune time to make an investment in infrastructure since 1) water infrastructure investments would create jobs, which are needed now; 2) financing costs are at historic lows; 3) the current economic climate can reduce the costs of infrastructure projects.
Water Works goes on to state that infrastructure investments create over 16 percent more jobs dollar for dollar than a payroll tax holiday, nearly 40 percent more jobs than an across the board tax cut, and over five times as many jobs as temporary business tax cuts. Many of the jobs created would not require a college degree, but could be done by high school graduates with specific job skills. This would open up job opportunities for many who have struggled during this current recession.
Boosting the economy and preserving and protecting our drinking water, groundwater, and water in our harbors and bays sounds like an unbeatable combination, and an idea which should be explored.