While these new forces are diverse, they share an underlying need for modern, efficient, and reliable infrastructure.
This statement alone could bring a page-worth of discussion, but instead of focusing on all infrastructure, I would like to highlight water infrastructure, and it’s need for long term asset planning.
A thought-provoking article in the Washington Examiner makes a lengthy overview of the various needs across all infrastructure in the United States, and has this to say about water infrastructure:
High-profile natural disasters, such as Hurricane Sandy, drew attention to problems with water infrastructure. Overwhelmed waste water systems, washed-out roads, shorted electrical circuitry and flooded train stations not only highlighted the economy’s reliance on these networks, but also revealed their poor condition. The nation’s water systems are now being rebuilt. Cities are working to capture storm and rain water rather than building costly pipes to sluice it away. The Center for an Urban Future recently described how New York City plans to spend $2.4 billion over 18 years in so-called “green” infrastructure such as rooftop vegetation, porous pavements, and soils to soak up rain.
Over and above the new types of needed infrastructure is a big change in how projects are financed.
Despite the importance of infrastructure, the U.S. has not spent enough for decades to maintain and improve it. It accounts for about 2.5 percent of the economy, compared to about 3.9 percent spent in Canada, Australia and South Korea, 5 percent for Europe and 9-12 percent in China. The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that the U.S. must spend at least $150 billion more a year on infrastructure through 2020 to meet its needs. This would add about 1.5 percent to annual economic growth and create at least 1.8 million jobs.
The article then goes on to observe that the political situation may under the guise of helping, be actually hindering the process with budget cuts and the like, concluding that the public sector will eventually, probably sooner rather than later, have to partner with the private sector in order to maintain assets and help people, places, and firms thrive and prosper.
Good quality, well maintained infrastructure is of vital importance to any modern efficient economy, so the community and political debate about the provision and funding of infrastructure is not going to go away.
Infrastructure management planning allows infrastructure owners and custodians to document the services being provided, the future demand for those services, and the risks associated with the infrastructure.
Through analysis and the development of lifecycle asset management plans the long term costs of providing the services can be developed, and this in turn informs the community and political debate about what is required and what is affordable.