| Report highlights water challenges: aging infrastructure, capital improvement financing
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Report highlights water challenges: aging infrastructure, capital improvement financing

Aging water infrastructure and the ability to secure financing for capital improvements continue to be among the top challenges that North American water systems grapple with, according to the American Water Works Association's (AWWA) newly-released 2024 State of the Water Industry (SOTWI) report.

2024 State of the Water Industry report coverSince AWWA launched the survey more than two decades ago, participants have perennially ranked these two related issues among the survey’s first- and second-highest concerns. However, the latest survey, as reported in a recent Connections article, rated the top issue as protecting drinking water at its source. Financial capital improvements ranked second, and aging water infrastructure ranked third.

More than 2,400 water professionals from the United States and Canada participated in the latest survey, conducted in late 2023. 

The issues of repairing or replacing water infrastructure and finding ways to pay for it are still of major concern, and participants who work at a utility reported a strong commitment to maintaining and upgrading their systems.

For example, 81% of utility participants indicated they have implemented or are in the process of implementing capital improvement plans, and 73% stated they have implemented asset management programs. 

Recent infrastructure funding initiatives, such as the U.S. Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, otherwise known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, provide a much-needed boost to these efforts by enabling utilities to accelerate the renewal and replacement of critical assets. 

Increased investment in technologies signaled

Technological advancement is also a prominent factor in infrastructure renewal, with investments in new treatment technologies, digital solutions and green alternatives anticipated to more than double in the next one-to-three years. 

When asked to rank the importance of topics related to the future of water, utilities ranked adoption and advancement of innovative technologies as “very important.” Service providers and consultants ranked the same topic as “extremely important.” Overall, both groups expressed growing interest in innovative solutions to maximize the life span and performance of aging systems. 

“In our quest to manage our precious water resources, we are committed to exploring diverse and innovative approaches,” said Heather Collins, assistant group manager of water system operations at Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and president-elect of AWWA. 

“As we repair, refurbish and renew our infrastructure, we are dedicated to integrating and advancing eco-friendly technologies that bolster the resilience of our water systems,” she added. “United in purpose, we forge ahead on the journey toward a sustainable future, where innovation thrives, and every drop is valued.”

AWWA’s 2024 State of the Water Industry (SOTWI) report and corresponding Executive Summary are available on AWWA’s State of the Water Industry resource page.