Des Moines, Iowa, and many other municipalities across the US are joined in realizing that they need to fix their drinking water infrastructure and fix it soon.
The problem is money. There isn’t enough to fund all the necessary repairs to aging systems.
As a result, many Americans can expect to see the price of water rising, which is necessary to fund new or updated infrastructure but perhaps this is not what consumers want to hear.
Longview News-Journal reports:
“We’re reaching the end of the life cycle of some of the most critical assets we’ve got,” said Bill Stowe, CEO and general manager of the utility, which has a downtown treatment plant that was built in the 1940s, long before nitrates, which can harm infants, became a pressing concern. He said the industry is getting “all kinds of these warning alarms that we haven’t heard before.”
A similar crisis is unfolding in cities across the country. After decades of keeping water rates low and deferring maintenance, scores of drinking water systems built around the time of World War II and earlier are in need of replacement. The costs to rebuild will be staggering. The costs of inaction are already piling up. The challenge is deepened by drought conditions in some regions and government mandates to remove more contaminants.”
Des Moines is really feeling the cost of not only maintaining infrastructure but the addition of having to treat water for nitrates.
Officials are concerned that the treatment plant may have to be temporarily shut at some point due to overuse on a hot day, and know they need to upgrade the capacity, but it’s always hard to prioritize costs and often there is no easy solution.
Lifecycle asset management is a management technique that looks at the costs of operating, maintaining, rehabilitation or replacing and disposing of infrastructure across the lifecycle of the infrastructure being analyzed.
This then allows informed community and political discussion of the what the long-term sustainable costs of this infrastructure will be, and when these costs are best expended.
Short term management, and ‘kicking the can down the road’, in terms of deferring cost has been demonstrated to increase long-term costs, and often to concentrate those costs in a short time span of the total life of the asset.
This creates a different set of problems, such as those that communities across the USA are starting to experience with their water network infrastructure.
PHOTO CREDIT: Carl Wycoff via Flickr Creative Commons License.