American Rivers Releases Report on Financing Water Infrastructure



Note to Reader:

There is an increasingly urgent need for renewed investment in water infrastructure. This need is driven by the unfortunate reality that for the many decades, funding to maintain water systems has fallen short of the cost of providing safe drinking water, sewage treatment and flood control. The result is decaying or outdated infrastructure that cannot keep pace with changing demand for water and wastewater treatment, growing population and increasingly heavy rainfall events.


Drinking Water Infrastructure

With water infrastructure decaying and threatening clean water in cities nationwide, American Rivers has released a report, “Drinking water infrastructure: Who Pays and How” to help water, community, and taxpayer advocates better understand how water utilities finance new infrastructure projects.

The report provides important and timely information because without smart strategies for updating or replacing outdated water infrastructure, water quality and river health will continue to decline, and cities will face increasing challenges to provide water services at affordable rates.

Preserving healthy flows in rivers while ensuring safe, adequate water supplies for the future will be pose difficult choices, and require innovative solutions. The report is a valuable tool and a call to action for advocates as they engage with drinking water utilities, city councils that set water rates, and the State Revolving Fund administrators that help to finance 21st century water infrastructure.


The Dire Need for Upgrades

Drinking water infrastructure in the United States received a “D” grade in the 2013 report card on America’s infrastructure by the American Society of Civil Engineers. The American Water Works Association estimates that replacing pipes in the roughly 240,000 water main breaks that occur in the United States every year would cost more than $1 trillion over the coming decades.

“From leaky pipes to sewage overflows, our country’s water infrastructure is in dire need of upgrades. Our outdated infrastructure cannot keep pace with changing demand for water and wastewater treatment,growing population and increasingly heavy storms,”said Jeff Odefey, director of stormwater programs for American Rivers.

“We need to make infrastructure investments that will best meet the needs of present and future generations. This report helps community and water advocates understand not only how to be more effective opponents of destructive and bloated infrastructure projects, but also how to be more effective proponents of cost-effective modern water infrastructure solutions that support river health,” said Odefey.

“Clean water doesn’t come free—it requires continuous investment in our most critical infrastructure. Community advocates need to help their political leaders make smart decisions on how to invest in water systems that best serve their needs,” said Sharlene Leurig, senior manager with the Ceres Water Program, who contributed to the report.

“This guide is an essential resource for advocates working in their communities to ensure that water is provided equitably and sustainably, for present and future generations.”


To Learn More:

The report covers such important topics as:

  • How Do Water Systems Pay for Infrastructure?
  • What Risks Come Along With Financing Water Infrastructure?
  • Why Don’t Water Systems Put Conservation First?
  • How Should Water Systems Structure Their Rates?
  • How Do Water Systems Pay for Conservation?
  • How Do We Balance Conservation and Affordability?
  • How Do We Build Support for Conservation?

The report is available at or click here.