Study: Water Investment Builds Economy Better Than Defense Spending or Tax Cuts

From 2014 to 2023, capital investments by 30 water utilities studied by the Water Research Foundation “will generate $52 billion per year in total annual economic output,” or $524 billion over the next decade, supporting 157,000 jobs per year — more than can be created by an equivalent investment in defense spending or an equivalent reduction in income taxes.

The Newtown Creek wastewater plant, operated by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, one of 30 water utilities that participated in the Water Research Foundation study. In 2013, 9 of NYCDEP’s 14 sewage treatment plants spilled a total of 1.6 billion gallons of raw sewage into the waters around the city.

The Newtown Creek wastewater plant, operated by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, one of 30 water utilities that participated in the Water Research Foundation study. In 2013, 9 of NYCDEP’s 14 sewage treatment plants spilled a total of 1.6 billion gallons of raw sewage into the waters around the city.

According to the WRF study:

Over the next decade, participating utilities will be: replacing aging infrastructure, improving local water quality, expanding services to accommodate increased demand, building system resiliency in the face of rising natural risks, and responding to an assortment of other needs that are driving investments in water infrastructure throughout the nation.

Shane Rogers, Clarkson University associate professor of civil and environmental engineering commented for Watermark:

As impressive as this is, it makes one question how much of that investment will result in essentially the same technology as we have today. How might greater innovation in the water sector better impact the outcomes of those investments — environmental and public health benefits in addition to economic?

For the third consecutive decade, 40% of the nation’s waters have failed to meet the Federal Clean Water Act goal of  water quality that supports recreation and the propagation of fish and wildlife. According to the Unites States Environmental Protection Agency, pproximately 17.7 million lake acres and 1.36 million river miles were under health advisory for fishing in 2011, representing 42.3 percent of the nation’s total lake acreage and 36 percent of the nation’s total river miles. Of the nation’s 3,650 beaches monitored in 2011, health notifications and closures affected 33,127 beach-days.

Many of those waterbodies are also sources for public water supplies. Most will not be brought up to specifications by simple repair and installation of existing technologies.

Approximately 17.7 million lake acres and 1.36 million river miles were under advisory in 2011, representing 42.3 percent of the nation’s total lake acreage and 36 percent of the nation’s total river miles. Of the nation’s 3,650 beaches monitored in 2011, health notifications and closures affected 33,127 beach-days. – See more at: http://earthdesk.blogs.pace.edu/2014/07/01/the-31st-anniversary-of-the-clean-water-acts-failure-to-meet-its-first-policy-goal/#sthash.AFZLdLs2.dpuf

Approximately 17.7 million lake acres and 1.36 million river miles were under advisory in 2011, representing 42.3 percent of the nation’s total lake acreage and 36 percent of the nation’s total river miles. Of the nation’s 3,650 beaches monitored in 2011, health notifications and closures affected 33,127 beach-days. – See more at: http://earthdesk.blogs.pace.edu/2014/07/01/the-31st-anniversary-of-the-clean-water-acts-failure-to-meet-its-first-policy-goal/#sthash.AFZLdLs2.dpuf

But even keeping speed with the demands of present crumbling and outdated infrastructure is daunting. According to WRF, despite the sizable investment by the 30 utilities studied:

[T]his infrastructure commitment represents only a modest portion of the nation’s unfunded water infrastructure needs. The Environmental Protection Agency has estimated the nation’s capital need over the next 20 years to be approximately $720 billion in total: $20 billion annually for drinking water infrastructure and an additional $16 billion per year for wastewater infrastructure.

To view the full study and executive summary, follow this link.