| 2020 State of the Water Industry Report: Before coronavirus, water sector highly optimistic
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2020 State of the Water Industry Report: Before coronavirus, water sector highly optimistic

In fall 2019, prior to the coronavirus pandemic, American Water Works Association (AWWA) members and water sector partners expressed their highest optimism in 15 years regarding the health of the water sector, according to an annual survey.

David LaFrance on the State of the Water Industry ReportUtility and non-utility survey participants from the United States and Canada were asked to rate the current health of the water industry on a 1-7 scale, with 1 “not at all sound” and 7 “very sound.” Responses averaged 4.9, the third consecutive annual increase since a low of 4.34 in 2017.

Results from the survey are available in the newly-released 2020 AWWA State of the Water Industry Report and accompanying Executive Summary, both available on the Association’s website. AWWA has produced an annual survey report since 2004.

Although unforeseen in late 2019, the emergence of COVID-19 has since created unprecedented global upheaval. In spite of this, the water sector’s responsiveness and innovation in addressing this challenge demonstrate that the sector should continue to be optimistic, says David LaFrance (pictured above with video), AWWA chief executive officer.

2020 State of the Water Industry“In the face of this year’s broad health concerns with COVID-19, utilities continue providing the vital service of keeping safe water flowing 24/7,” LaFrance said. “Our place in society is essential to the health and prosperity of each community, and we have the expertise, professional collaborations, knowledge, and access to technical resources to solve water’s challenges – today and tomorrow.”

Focus on recurring water issues paying off

Some of the survey participants’ optimism may be attributed to the fact that progress has been made over the past several years to address the key issues impacting the water sector. As ranked by participants in the 2019 survey, the top five issues are:

  1. Renewal and replacement of aging water and wastewater infrastructure
  2. Financing for capital improvements
  3. Long-term water supply availability
  4. Public understanding of the value of water systems and services
  5. Watershed/source water protection

Because of their complexity, the top two issues listed above have ranked highest in AWWA’s annual surveys for eight years running. The water sector’s continued focus on these issues has led to expanded funding options.

Chi Ho Sham“AWWA and its volunteers have been instrumental in bringing attention to the challenges of aging infrastructure, limited funding, and impacts of agriculture on drinking water sources,” said Chi Ho Sham (pictured right), AWWA president-elect.

“This has supported growth in loan programs through the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) and Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving Funds (DWSRF and CWSRF),” he added. “The 2018 Agriculture Improvement Act, known as the Farm Bill, also offers excellent opportunities for drinking water systems to use conservation title funds to protect their source water.”

More information is available on AWWA’s online State of the Water Industry resource page.