If you’ve been keeping up with the news, you probably know that on Nov. 12, President Biden signed a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill into law.
And just last week, the administration announced that $7.4 billion (out of $50 billion) will be distributed to states, tribes and territories for 2022, earmarked for water infrastructure. The remainder will be doled out over the next several years.
EPA Administrator Michael Regan told NBC News that it is the “single largest investment in water infrastructure” in the history of the federal government. And it’s a much-needed victory for the nation’s aging water and wastewater systems.
Aging Water Lines
The simple fact is, America’s water and sewer infrastructure system is old. In some regions, lines have been in use for more than a century, especially here on the East Coast. And that water infrastructure is failing because repairs and upgrades have repeatedly been put on the back burner — in the Lehigh Valley, and all over the country.
A number of costly upgrades are required for the more than 600 miles of aging water and sewer lines in the city of Allentown alone. Over the next 10 years, LCA expects to spend close to $144 million on infrastructure improvements. “Infrastructure investments support our region’s economic vitality,” says Lehigh County Authority CEO Liesel Gross. “It’s a “must do” for the Lehigh Valley and communities across our nation!”
While water main breaks, leaks and outages are among the most obvious symptoms of the failing infrastructure, there are health and safety aspects, too. Leaks and breaks can allow contaminants to enter already treated drinking water before it reaches the tap, and some of those old lines contain lead. USA Today reports that more than 2,000 water systems across the U.S. have lead levels that exceed federal limits.
A Big Step Forward
In a statement about the bill, the American Water Works Association wrote, “AWWA’s 2012 Buried No Longer report showed that more than $1 trillion would be required to repair and expand drinking water infrastructure over 25 years. The passage of the infrastructure bill is a tremendous step forward in meeting that challenge and assuring safe, reliable, and affordable water service.
“Renewing and upgrading the nation’s water infrastructure is critical to protect public health, safeguard the environment and allow our economy to prosper …
… By reauthorizing the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act and doubling funding for the drinking water State Revolving Fund, the federal government is helping states and local water providers to spur on critical water projects. In addition, the $15 billion designated for lead service line replacement is a welcome down payment on what could be a $60 billion challenge,” AWWA officials wrote.
To find out more about LCA’s planned infrastructure improvements, visit the Our Water. Our Future web page, which highlights some larger planned projects and their impact on the region’s water systems.