Nationwide Stormwater Infrastructure Gets a "D"
"With few dedicated funding sources, complicated governance and ownership structures, expansive networks of aging assets, increasingly stringent water quality regulations, and concerning climate change projections, the expected performance of stormwater systems is declining. Many of the country’s legacy stormwater systems are struggling with the high cost of retrofits needed to address urban flooding and climate change. Upgrading large networks of aging systems underneath densely populated areas carries significant costs and engineering challenges."
A few of the notable recommendations to improve the D grade given in the report include making stormwater design mainstream in the development planning process, to include climate variability in stormwater codes, and to educate the public on the true costs, savings, risks, and avoided hazards associated with stormwater infrastructure investments:
- Stormwater infrastructure and design regulations are critical for protecting communities from costly urban flooding and protecting water quality in our waterways. Stormwater systems should be a combination of gray, green, and natural infrastructure and should be mainstreamed in planning and development processes nationwide.
- Expand the inclusion of current and forecasted climate variability in codes and standards for the design, operation, maintenance, and expansion of stormwater infrastructure and routinely provide funding to NOAA to update the climate data.
- Develop a comprehensive education campaign on the true costs, savings, risks, and avoided hazards associated with stormwater infrastructure investments, and disseminate these details through broadly accessible platforms.
ASCE's 2021 Report Card Released March 3rd, 2021
ASCE’s 2021 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, released March 3, assessed U.S. infrastructure with an overall C- grade.
And while that marks an improvement over the D+ grade on ASCE’s 2017 Report Card and is the highest overall grade in 20 years for the nation’s infrastructure, the report found that the long-term infrastructure investment gap continues to grow. That gap has risen from $2.2 trillion over 10 years in the last report to $2.59 trillion in the latest study, meaning a funding gap of nearly $260 billion per year.
“We have not made the investments to maintain infrastructure that in some cases was built more than 50 years ago,” said ASCE Executive Director Tom Smith.
“As this study shows, we risk significant economic losses, higher costs to consumers, businesses and manufacturers – and our quality of life – if we don’t act urgently. When we fail to invest in infrastructure, we pay the price.”
Using an A to F school report card format, ASCE’s Report Card for America’s Infrastructure provides a comprehensive assessment of current infrastructure conditions and needs, evaluating 17 categories.
The individual 2021 grades ranged from a B for rail to a D- for transit. Despite incremental gains, 11 of the 17 categories received a grade in the D range. Five category grades – for aviation, drinking water, energy, inland waterways, and ports – went up from the last report in 2017, while one category – bridges – went down.
“I believe the overall grade of a C- shows that we’re on the right track but have a ways to go,” said Ruwanka Purasinghe, EIT, A.M.ASCE, member of ASCE’s Committee on America’s Infrastructure. “We’ve seen over the past four years that with proper resources, implementation, and funding, we can really make a meaningful impact on our infrastructure. I’m also excited to see how innovation and technology will continue to change the way we approach and provide solutions for our aging infrastructure.”
The 2021 Report Card found three overarching trends affecting infrastructure:
• Maintenance backlogs continue to be an issue, but asset management helps prioritize limited funding.
• Federal investments can significantly move the needle, as seen in the improved inland waterways, ports, and drinking water grades. Additionally, state and local governments have made progress, such as leveraging gas tax to fund transportation investments.
• There are still infrastructure sectors where data is scarce or unreliable.
ASCE revealed the grades through a virtual news conference, followed by the ASCE Solutions Summit. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) spoke during the Report Card release: “This is something that both Republicans and Democrats say should be a top priority. If we can’t come to a consensus on infrastructure across the aisle, I’m not sure we can find bipartisan consensus on anything. … I think it’s critically important for us that we invest in our infrastructure so we can be an example to the rest of the world.”
The ASCE Committee on America’s Infrastructure, made up of 31 civil engineers from across the country with decades of expertise in all categories, prepared the Report Card, assessing all relevant data and reports, consulting with technical and industry experts, and assigning grades using the following criteria: capacity, condition, funding, future need, operation and maintenance, public safety, resilience, and innovation. In support of ASCE’s experts, a research team of EBP, Downstream Strategies, Daymark Energy Advisors, and the Interindustry Forecasting Project at the University of Maryland (INFORUM) helped develop the study.
Read more about the Report Card, including deep dives into each infrastructure category, in Civil Engineering magazine.
To view the full report, visit InfrastructureReportCard.org.
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