The American Society of Civil Engineers’ (ASCE) latest Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, issued every four years since 2001, recently gave the nation’s drinking water systems a C- grade and its wastewater systems a D+ grade. The C- was actually a slight improvement from four years ago and the D+ was the same grade as 2017. Nonetheless, the shabbiness of the grades heightens the sense of urgency for water providers to take actions that will in turn improve this important, but often overlooked part of our nation’s infrastructure.
“This year’s ASCE grades on drinking water and wastewater infrastructure show just how desperately water providers need a plan to upgrade, repair, and maintain their water and wastewater systems,” said Don Shields, Vice President of Engineering at New Jersey American Water. “New Jersey American Water is significantly ahead of the curve on this and we see the findings as more evidence for the need to continue updating and maintaining water infrastructure to enhance the resiliency of the nation’s water system for health, safety, and robust local economies.”
In 2020 alone, New Jersey American Water invested more than $464 million on system upgrades and various improvement projects across its service areas statewide. This was an increase of approximately $80 million over the company’s original capital investment plan in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency. Approximately $174 million was spent on replacing and rehabilitating aging pipes and installing new main pipes to additional areas, and $93.5 million went into improvements for its water treatment facilities across New Jersey. This included upgrades to facilities such as the Raritan Millstone Water Treatment Plant, the Springfield Station, the 52nd Street Station in Ocean City, and the Navesink Tank Station.
New Jersey American Water also launched our START – Solutions Today and Reinvesting Tomorrow – initiative, which aims to accelerate investment projects to continue to provide safe, reliable water and wastewater service while increasing supplier diversity initiatives and creating a workforce development program to help create jobs.
A breakdown of water systems can result in water disruptions, impediments to emergency response, and damage to other types of infrastructure. The price tag for the critical upkeep and replacement of the nation’s outdated water systems is at least $1 trillion over the next 25 years, according to estimates by the American Water Works Association. The longer we delay in addressing those needs, the greater the cost is going to be, both in actual dollars and possibly in public health. While it is a challenge, investing in water and wastewater systems has many benefits. In 2021, New Jersey American Water expects to invest over $350 million across its service areas.
“Water infrastructure investments prove their value every day,” added Shields. “From projects to replace water mains, pipelines, and hydrants, and the installation of advanced metering technology to help reduce water leaks, to enhanced treatment capabilities improving efficiency and reliability, the investments we’ve made into the system allow us to continue to meet customer needs in the communities we serve.”