water infrastructure jobs are waiting to be implemented

Making America Competitive in a Global Economy

H2O, one of our main building blocks of life receives no respect, is taken for granted every time we turn on a faucet, a shower valve, a hose bib in the garden, or when we put a load of laundry in our washer; we expect; no; actually we don’t even think anything about it; water is a given like our electricity in our homes, it is just suppose to be there on command. Since water is subsidized by the local, regional, state and federal governments we do not pay the actual cost of what we use day in and day out, making water actually a lot more inexpensive then what it actually cost to deliver to the end user. In the United States, we use an average of 69 gallons per day per person (Source: American Water Works Association). What will be explained today is that water is not a resource that is unlimited. Some regions of our country have easier access but we have reached our peak in what we have readily available day in and day out as a whole for the 360 plus major metropolitan areas of our country. The last two decades of the 20th century and the first ten years of this century has shown through different reports and studies that water is a precious commodity and that if we do not create sustainable plans to manage our water supply we will experience shortages as our country grows by another 120 million citizens this century. We will explore what the water issues are today, recognize the priorities to and consider some goals to attain. Our water infrastructure means an awful lot to our economy, health and security; how we manage and maintain our delivery systems this century will be critical.

Our country, states, regions and local municipalities squander and impair scarce natural resources and our in place infrastructure, our water and sanitary water capacity as well as financial resources that we could put to more effective economic use and growth. The facts are obvious; our poor management and putting off maintenance year in and year out not only will cost us more in the long term but comes with a great environmental cost as well. We must take a leadership position on this subject; from our citizens/electorate, businesses, associations and non-profit organizations and demand effective asset management that will protect our water sources and supply in order to become more cost effective. These policies will actually lower the overall cost during the lifetime of these systems. It shall also allow the utility companies to provide the capacity that is most critical. Included within this plan shall be a state-region water management plan that the neighboring states and regions with the states can make better plans when outlining and managing these policies.

That is one of the concerns we all should have since Governor Scott signed into law to reduce the Department of Community Affairs budget of from $780 Million dollars this past year down to $110 Million dollars this coming year of. The DCA had been one of our smallest state agencies charged with oversight of our Smart Growth Management Plans initiated back in 1985. The legislature and governor have now starved this department by 86 percent of its operating funds and eliminated their ability to address poor future development plans, water quality and environmental protection for our state and future generations. They have exposed our most sensitive lands to the mercy of shabby growth, eliminating our smart growth culture. It is now up to our state agencies to prove a new development is not good for the state plan, before now it was the developers responsibility and cost to prove their development would not be detrimental to the quality of our water, sheet flow from north of Lake Okeechobee down through Southwest region of our state as well as putting other sensitive native vegetation and biological life in jeopardy.

Our water infrastructure (water supply, delivery systems, sanitary water treatment and our storm water) is very old, having passed its life cycle in some instances decades ago. For instance, New Jersey in a 2007 in a report from the American Society of Consulting Engineers (ASCE), issued a “D” grade for sanitary treatment and a “C” for quality of drinking water. The ASCE went on further in their report to state emphatically their water infrastructure is in need of critical repairs and or replacement. Miami is now almost at the 90 year mark of when it started to develop out with its water and treatment systems. They are located right above the Biscayne Aquifer which is at the moment fighting some of the lowest levels exposing it to salt water infiltration from the Atlantic Ocean. There is approximately 400 million gallons drawn from this aquifer daily for that areas fresh water supply. We must be implementing the repair and rebuilding of these delivery systems now. Think about it this way, if they are leaking at a rate of 13-15 percent we are losing a days’ supply every 6.6 days. When you have such a sensitive situation like we have with the Biscayne Aquifer can we really to expect to lose 52 days worth of fresh water supply without putting the aquifer under more duress?

The ASCE has recommended the following legislative and regulatory policies intended to ensure proper water management and utility functions: (1). Implement sound asset management principles which shall ensure our knowledge of our asset inventory and value at any one time. This will support the budget requirements for maintaining and replacing these systems allowing for cost effective management. (2). Each state shall implement a standardized approach that will make the public and private utilities accountable for their asset, their costs and the budgeting for future capital expenditures. The last issue; (3). Shall enable each state to be fully accountable for their capacity with all utility companies (there are over 16,000 utilities as of 2008 in America). The implementation of those policies will ensure asset management cost and utility accounting principles that are standardized and funded as it reaches the end of its life cycle.

Included with the above policies must be a means of routine water infrastructure asset condition assessment. We need to issue programmed and preventive maintenance (“PPM”) systems as well as procedures for assessing the life-cycle cost impacts of repair or new replacement judgment. These regulations must be fair and reasonable. Any Federal, State and Regional regulations adopted to require the implementation of these general elements should not mandate specific methods or thresholds across all utility types and sizes unless they are recognized industry standards. All utilities would be required to effectively perform long-term planning of asset and capacity needs, to determine full life-cycle costs, to identify and address the reliability of critical assets, and to proactively account for and perform replacement of critical assets before failure. Phased implementation should be allowed, and shared services agreements encouraged (Source: ASCE-New Jersey).

The following list of priorities can be found in the Urban Land Institutes (ULI) 2010 Publication: “Infrastructure 2010”.
(1). Leaks need to be repaired immediately. We waste in our countries infrastructure daily enough water for California daily use. Our system for delivering quality drinking water; our mandate for the elimination of septic fields and wells, and the upgrades necessary to treat sanitary water more thoroughly to ensure quality ground water. Our storm water systems will need to be reviewed and revised as economically possible.
(2). As mentioned above; we shall develop state, regional and local strategies which should include how to protect our supply of water, work within the rights of all states and other regions to establish plans that our inclusive. Planning for the future population growth is also an important aspect of developing regional strategies as well.
(3). Land use planning needs to be revisited and revised to eliminate our spread out suburban planning models that worked well when gas was 30 cents but which adds cost in material and equipment; when you assemble mixed use built environments you use a lot less infrastructure construction for in-place built infrastructure such as water delivery and sanitary waste treatment.
(4). Modernize our infrastructure system(s). The older metropolitan areas had their infrastructure last a couple of decades longer then our newer metropolitan cities such as Atlanta which has reached its peak after 40-50 years of service. We need to maintain manage and replace our infrastructure at the very time these old systems have reached their end of life. It is the cost of doing business in a modern civilization; it has nothing to do about free enterprise. Sure the private sector can contract to perform the work but it is government’s responsibility to make sure our quality of water is kept in tack.
(5). Better agricultural irrigation patterns need to be developed. We have seen some significant gains in the past ten years but this is only a drop in the bucket. How farmers utilize their fertilizing with more time delayed nitrogen compounds to lessen the nitrogen contamination in our rivers, lakes, wet-lands, and oceans is imperative. Those of you that live here year round know how bad it can get with Red Tide during the summer. Red Tide basically is the runoff nitrogen from agriculture and neighborhoods that increase the nitrogen content in our fresh and brackish water by 150 percent. This can have detrimental consequences to our sensitive littoral wet-land zones killing off the grasses and small biological the fish and other animals feed on. The grasses die off and our buffer from tropical storms that naturally protect our erosion is eliminated.
(6). Groundwater strategies, understanding how our aquifers replenish themselves, how does salt water intrusion affect our water supply and how do we incorporate good reliable conservation policies to protect the quality and supply of our water.
(7). Implementing native landscape trees, shrubs, grasses and ground cover. The days of non-native landscapes and sods need to be eradicated. By only allowing what grows naturally in our region be utilized as landscape material will allow us to not have to use the amount of irrigation we now use.
(8). Charging end users the use of what it truelly cost to adequate supply quality water and to properly treat our sanitary waste treatment. We cannot change the social behavior of taking 20, 30, 40 minute showers, running the water while we brush our teeth or shave our face and running the dishwasher or laundry washer with half loads. Business must also foot their true costs as well. LEEDS has developed appropriate guidelines to follow and it is my wish that our politicians obtain the political will to incorporate these guidelines for future development and major renovations that are 25 percent and above the cost of the existing property being renovated.
(9). Finally, we need to educate the public on how much water is actually used daily, how we supply the country, state or region and what the cost are when we leave a dripping faucet, a running toilet; or our infrastructure leaks. We need to reverse our direction in the management and planning of our water resources. Starting in the pre-K and continuing through college, the teaching our students how to conserve, why these concerns exist in order for our future generations to continue implementing the strategies that will protect our water infrastructure and systems. The average per capita of water use by a typical American is as follows: we use 69 gallons per day. Dishwasher 1.4%, baths 1.7%, other uses 2.3%, leaks 13.7%, Faucets 15.7%, Showers 16.8%, washers 21.7% and toilets 26.7%. We can do better and we must.

The cost over the next 20 years to repair and replace our water infrastructure has been estimated between $400-$500 Billion dollars. We need to fund these projects during the next decade. We therefore can take advantage of low interest rates at this moment, create much needed jobs so we can fund the revenue side of our budget and pay down our Federal debt. We should look into and implement an infrastructure bank where both private and public funds may invest in the building of our 21st century economy. The infrastructure bank could escape the fall-out of the financial credit collapse that started our latest recession. Private Public Partnerships have been very successful in funding many of the European infrastructure systems since 1948. This plan was thought up by us when we were heavily involved in the redevelopment of the worn torn continent after WW II.

The infrastructure bank would be a great financial vehicle for the investor; providing returns on investments for large Wall Street retirement funds, multinational corporations, K 401 Plans. The infrastructure bank would bring stability and long term capital for the next 10-15 years. Another advantage to an infrastructure bank would be the proposal vetting process which would make the decision making of projects competitive; projects that need to go on at the same time frame would have an avenue for becoming shovel ready. Lastly, the infrastructure bank does not burden the tax payer for the full cost of rebuilding and repairing our water systems. (Source: ULI).

Water is a precious commodity. We have wasted a couple of decades not rebuilding and or renovating our existing systems. The development of an infrastructure bank will enable our water infrastructure systems to get caught up and lessen the time to build our water systems built environment. We will create needed well paying jobs which will put people back to work, lower our unemployment, give our people, country and citizens a sense of initiative and goals to attain and move our country closer to being an economically viable nation for the 21st century. The citizens, workers, impoverished, students, businessmen and women, businesses, multinational corporations, and non-profits all need to be telling our political leaders this is the direction we want to go in now.


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Comments » 1

swampbuggy writes:

Sounds like sustainable developments aren't very sustainable.

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