The Lay of the Land
All water and wastewater utilities share the same mandate: protect public health and ensure customers have access to clean water at all times, under all conditions. Yet the nation’s crumbling water and wastewater infrastructure has forced utilities into a stark choice: Invest in system resiliency or gamble and risk costly failures.
Most drinking water pipes were installed in the mid-20th century and are nearing the end of their useful life. An estimated 240,000 water main breaks waste up to 2 trillion gallons of treated drinking water per year, or 6 billion gallons a day. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the United States is facing a nationwide infrastructure crisis that threatens both rural towns and major cities. This threat tends to be obscured by the excellence of utility managers and engineers, who work tirelessly to maximize their dwindling resources and maintain the mandated level of service to customers. However, the time for reinvestment is upon us, and we must renew our efforts to rehabilitate aging systems and develop strategies for mitigating risk.
ASCE reports that if capital spending does not catch up to water infrastructure needs, over $140 billion will be required to reliably meet demands by 2040. To close this spending gap, utilities need to align management practices with those developed by the American Water Works Association (AWWA) and other organizations dedicated to utility performance. Public attitudes toward water and wastewater infrastructure investment have a significant impact on utility success, so customers must be educated about the value of water. Mountain Waterworks has seen the power of encouraging public engagement with water and wastewater projects and is optimistic that, with strategic management and planning, communities can revive utility infrastructure and prosper from responsible management of water resources.
Toward this end, Mountain Waterworks helps utilities protect past investments and plan for a responsive future. Our project managers are known for their ability to bring stakeholders together in the face of a challenge to generate consensus and implement solutions.
Environmental regulations spur most water and wastewater utility rehabilitation projects. Since the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972 and the Safe Drinking Water Act in 1974, all local efforts have had to align with federal standards.
The CWA mandates that municipalities and state governments account for industrial waste and other pollution disposed of into local waterways. The SDWA, in turn, set standards for drinking water throughout the country. These two major milestones began to transform the nation’s relationship with water: once an afterthought, water became a source of pride.
However, as utility managers and operators know, maintaining these high standards poses unique challenges. Mountain Waterworks is well-versed in the complex rules and regulations that govern these systems, and our dedicated environmental staff assists utilities as they follow the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). From project conceptualization to construction close-out, our team coordinates with regulatory staff and advises utility owners on how to meet environmental standards in the long term.