Infrastructure Week 2019

From May 13-20, the seventh annual Infrastructure Week is taking place with the support of hundreds of affiliates across the country. Infrastructure Week was created to help raise awareness for our country’s growing infrastructure needs and stress the message that we must #BuildForTomorrow. Led by a coalition of businesses, labor organizations and policy organizations, this week will unite the public and private sector to send this important message to leaders in Washington and beyond.

No matter where you live, your age, your education, if you drive a car or a truck or take the bus or a bicycle, infrastructure has a profound impact on your daily life. We all have to get around. We all need lights to come on and water to come out of the tap.

Consequently, too much of our nation’s infrastructure is under-maintained, too old, and over capacity. When it comes to water infrastructure alone, we are dealing with a massive network of pipes that are well over 100 years old. In short, droughts in western states have caused wells and reservoirs to fall dangerously low; saltwater intrusion of Florida’s drinking water infrastructure, and dam and levee failures in California, South Carolina, and Louisiana have caused evacuations and put hundreds of thousands of people and homes at risk.

infrastructure week photo with stat stating that 'most Americans' wter systems have been in operation for 75-100 years - well past their lifespans.

The High Cost of Water Infrastructure

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. A study conducted by the American Water Works Association revealed that the cost to replace our nation’s water infrastructures would cost more than one trillion dollars over the next 25 years.

No state, city, or county alone can tackle the growing backlog of projects of regional and national importance, and Americans get it: more than 79 percent of voters think it is extremely important for Congress and the White House to work together to invest in infrastructure.

For years, near-unanimous, bipartisan support for infrastructure investment has been steadily increasing. Leaders and voters have been rolling up their sleeves to spark efforts in the rebuilding and modernizing of transportation, water, and energy systems. Certainly, large strides have been made as a country, but there is still a lot to be done.

Every four years, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) publishes The Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, which grades the current state of the nation’s infrastructure on a scale between A and F. The last survey from 2017 gave tremendous insight into the state of our infrastructure surrounding drinking water, dams, and wastewater.

Drinking Water Infrastructure

The drinking water that we get in our homes and businesses all comes from about one million miles of pipes across the country. While the majority of those pipes were laid in the early to mid-20th century, many are showing signs of deterioration. There are many reasons for a water main to break including localized influences such as aggressive soil and weather conditions, as well as poor design/construction. Approximately 240,000 occur each year, consequently resulting in the waste of two trillion gallons of treated drinking water. Drinking Water received a grade of D.


The average age of the 90,000+ dams in the United States is 56.  Nearly 16,000 (~17%) have been classified as high-hazard potential. Dam failures not only risk public safety, they also can cost our economy millions of dollars in damages as well as the impairment of many other infrastructure systems, such as roads, bridges, and water systems. As a result, emergency action plans (EAPs) for use in the event of a dam failure or other uncontrolled release of water are vital. As of 2015, 77% of dams have EAPs – up from 66% in the last 2013 Report Card. Dams received a grade of D.


There are approximately 15,000 wastewater treatment plants across the U.S that are critical for protecting public health and the environment. In the next 15 years, it is expected that there will be 56 million new users connected to the centralized treatment system. This need comes with an estimated $271 billion cost. Maintaining our nation’s wastewater infrastructure is imperative for the health and well being of the 76% of the country that rely on these plants for sanitary water. Wastewater received a grade of D+.

In the water sector alone, it’s clear how heavily we rely on solid infrastructure. If the issues in our nation’s water infrastructure are not addressed, millions of people as well as our environment will be at risk. Many communities around the country are working hard to deliver projects to solve these problems – but there is always more to be done. Reversing the trajectory after decades of under-investment requires transformative action from Congress, states, infrastructure owners, and the American people. Join us this week to help spotlight the continued advocacy and education of infrastructure needs. Afterall, this is the true foundation that connects our country’s communities, businesses, and people.


Infrastructure Week 2017 — #TimeToBuild

There are few – very few – issues that have as much bipartisan support today as investing in our nation’s infrastructure. We all have experienced dodging potholes while we drive, waiting for a bus that feels like it is never going to come, or being packed like sardines in an overcrowded airport for an interminable amount of time. We have all read the stories about the drinking water crisis in communities with neglected pipes, and seen the news coverage of gas pipeline explosions or levees that break during a flood. Infrastructure affects every single American. We all rely on it, and we all know it is time to build something better.

A sinkhole opened up on a San Luis Obispo city street after a water main break in March. (San Luis Obispo Utilities Department photo)

Roads, bridges, rails, ports, airports, pipes, the power grid, broadband — it is all infrastructure. It affects our daily commutes and our summer vacations. Infrastructure determines if we can drink water straight from our taps and flush our toilets. It brings electricity in to our homes and factories. For decades, the country let deferred maintenance bills pile up and looked the other way while other countries invested significantly more in everything from ports to airports, and from roads to rails. But there has been an awakening about the urgency of this issue, and more Americans support investing in our infrastructure than nearly any other issue right now. All we need is a little political courage out of Washington, D.C. to make this idea a reality.

That is why Tata & Howard is participating in Infrastructure Week 2017. We’re joining hundreds of organizations across the country this week, all raising awareness about this critical issue.  

Corroded lead pipe from Flint, Michigan. Photo: Siddhartha Roy /

Every year America fails to adequately invest in our infrastructure, the United States becomes less competitive, our economy grows more slowly, and families and businesses lose valuable time and money. The goods we manufacture cost more when they get stuck on congested highways, rerouted around structurally deficient bridges, and stranded at outdated ports. World War II era radar technology and airports at capacity deter U.S. consumers from travelling, annually robbing the economy tens of billions of dollars.

Decades of underfunding and deferred maintenance have pushed our country to the brink of a national infrastructure crisis. We are desensitized to tragedies as though they are normal. Fatal mass transit accidents, toxic drinking water, bridges collapsing, and rivers contaminated with raw sewage are all actually completely preventable and we, as a nation, should declare them unacceptable.

T&H provided design and construction services for a water main installation in Milford, MA

It is time to say “enough.” We can build something better than this. There are examples around the country and the world that show us that it is entirely possible to build something better than this. During Infrastructure Week, we also want to recognize progress. We want to see more partnership and investment going forward. It is the only way to build us out of this hole.

Closing our country’s trillion-dollar infrastructure investment gap demands a strong federal partner to fund large and transformative projects. We are going to need collaboration between the public and private sectors to create innovative solutions. And leaders at all levels need to commit to building a long-term, sustainable plan to invest in America’s infrastructure.

For more information or to participate, visit

Infrastructure Week 2016 — #InfrastructureMatters

Logo_IW_Small-1024x416It is scary to realize how complacent our country has become in accepting crumbling infrastructure as the norm. Our international competitors are investing more in high speed rail, modern airports, and bigger shipping ports, while just about every few months, some kind of preventable catastrophic infrastructure event happens in America. Yet our leaders are still not spurred into taking decisive action.

Infrastructure matters. It matters, in big ways and in small, to our country, our economy, our quality of life, our safety, and our communities. Roads, bridges, rails, ports, airports, pipes, the power grid, and broadband — infrastructure matters to companies that manufacture and ship goods. It matters to our daily commutes and our summer vacations. Infrastructure determines if we can drink water straight from our taps and flush our toilets or do our laundry. It brings electricity in to our homes. Ultimately, infrastructure matters to every aspect of our daily lives.

That is why Tata & Howard has teamed up with hundreds of other groups around the country to participate in Infrastructure Week 2016. We’re raising awareness about the need to invest in infrastructure, which is the backbone of our economy, locally and nationally.

Every year America fails to adequately invest in our infrastructure, the United States becomes less competitive, our economy grows more slowly, and families and businesses lose valuable time and money. The goods we manufacture cost more when they get stuck on congested highways, rerouted around structurally deficient bridges, and stranded at outdated ports. Continued reliance on World War II era technology and airports that lack sufficient capacity cause U.S. consumers to skip travel, costing the economy tens of billions of dollars each year.

Water main break
Water main break

Particularly in the northeast, water and wastewater infrastructure has reached the end of its useful life. A water main breaks every two minutes, and we have seen the tragedy that can come from utilizing outdated technology, such as lead pipes in Flint, Michigan. And, our failure to invest in infrastructure ripples throughout the economy: for every $1 invested in infrastructure, $2 in output is created – putting our friends and neighbors to work.

Decades of underfunding and deferred maintenance have pushed our country to the brink of a national infrastructure crisis. And we have begun to accept preventable tragedies as normal, when they should in fact be entirely unacceptable: fatal mass transit accidents; deadly, poisonous drinking water; sickening gas leaks; levee-breaking floods; deadly pipeline bursts; and rivers contaminated with raw sewage. America’s poorly-funded infrastructure and transportation systems can be more than just inconvenient; they can be harmful to our health and safety. Importantly, all of these tragedies are preventable with adequate investment – they are not merely unfortunate accidents we must endure.

Traffic in Stamford, Connecticut
Traffic in Stamford, Connecticut

Every dollar we invest in infrastructure is an investment in our neighborhoods and our future. Because our roads are in poor condition and littered with potholes, U.S. drivers pay more than $500 in avoidable vehicle repairs and operating costs each year. In Connecticut, the areas of New Haven, Bridgeport, and Stamford have had 45% of their roadways rated “poor” by TRIP, a Washington, D.C.-based national transportation research group. Instead of wasting over 40 hours each year stuck in traffic jams, we could spend that time being productive.

Americans deserve a 21st century transportation network; modern aviation systems; safe, clean, reliable water and wastewater service; broadband access in every community; and, a freight network and ports that can keep pace in the global economy. To grow our economy, keep Americans safe, and maintain strong communities, we need all levels of government and the private sector to work together to prioritize the rebuilding of our nation’s infrastructure.

tap-water-drop-225x300During Infrastructure Week, groups are coming together to recognize progress and leadership at the federal, state, and local levels – and there is much to celebrate. For example, communities throughout New England have been proactive in lead service line replacement, and the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) announced in March that $100 million in interest-free loans would be made available to its member water communities to fully replace lead service lines.

But our work is nowhere near complete. As we look to 2016 and beyond, closing our country’s trillion-dollar infrastructure investment gap demands a strong federal partner in funding large and transformative projects. We are going to need real collaboration between the public and private sectors to identify and implement innovative solutions. And leaders at all levels are going to need to finally wake up and commit to building a long-term, sustainable plan to invest in America’s infrastructure. There is too much at stake to fail at any of this. Infrastructure matters.

Infrastructure Week 2015: Saving Our Nation’s Water Infrastructure

“It is very, very difficult to run a first-class county or city on second-rate infrastructure.” —Commissioner Melanie Worley, Douglass County, CO

showerInfrastructure. It’s something we take for granted every single day — when we make coffee, flush our toilets, or drive to work. Infrastructure is what keeps our economy moving and our lives healthy. The virtual eradication of water-borne illnesses such as cholera and typhoid fever are the direct result of improved water and wastwater infrastructure, and the economic growth and strength of the past 50 years is due largely in part to our extensive transportation system. Unfortunately, America’s infrastructure is now past its prime and aging fast, and if it is allowed to fall into total disrepair, the long-term negative economic impact to our nation would be devastating.

Infrastructure Week is a grassroots, stakeholder-driven movement whose affiliates span the nation and represent all sectors of the economy and civil society – from local chambers of commerce to labor unions to trade associations and private companies. Together, the coalition is united around delivering to Congress and the American people the core message of Infrastructure Week: Investing in America’s Economy. Infrastructure Week is bringing together thousands of stakeholders in Washington and around the country to highlight the critical importance of investing in and modernizing America’s infrastructure systems, and the essential role infrastructure plays in our economy.1

U.S. Infrastructure

rusty bridge
Corroded struts on a bridge

When we think of infrastructure, our primary focus is frequently on what we can directly see — our transportation system. Admittedly, our roads, bridges, railways, airports, and seaports are in desperate need of attention. Decades of neglect have left us with a crumbling transportation system resulting in productivity losses and safety concerns. One out of every nine of the nation’s 70,000 bridges is considered structurally deficient, and 42% of America’s major urban highways remain congested, resulting in an annual cost of about $100 billion in wasted time and fuel costs. Yes, our transportation system is certainly at risk. However, our water infrastructure is also in critical need of attention, including drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater systems as well as our nation’s dams.

Water Infrastructure

What are some typical tasks in the daily life of the average American? Take a shower, make coffee, prepare meals — maybe run a load of laundry or water the lawn. It is so easy to take these simple, everyday actions for granted, but they all rely on something we largely cannot see: water infrastructure. Water infrastructure isn’t just a few underground pipes. According to the EPA, water infrastructure includes all the man-made and natural features through which water is treated and moved. And while it is all part of the water environment, it is conducive to think about infrastructure in terms of drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater. Drinking water infrastructure includes lands in source water areas, reservoirs and storage, treatment plants, and distribution systems; wastewater infrastructure includes collection systems and pipes, pump stations, treatment plants, and septic systems; and stormwater infrastructure includes catch basins, stormwater pipes, green infrastructure approaches that infiltrate and manage water where it falls, and land management practices that keep runoff from adversely impacting surface water or groundwater.2 And let’s not forget dams. The U.S. has over 84,000 dams, 14,000 of which are considered high hazard, meaning that failure of the dam would likely cause the loss of life. Even more concerning is the fact that funding is simply not available for inspection and maintenance. For example, South Carolina has 2,380 dams, and the state employs only one full-time inspector and one half-time inspector to inspect them all.

Infrastructure Report Card

infrastructure report card
ASCE 2013 Infrastructure Report Card

So how does our nation’s infrastructure rate? In 2013, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) issued a report card giving an overall grade of D+, with drinking water, wastewater, and dams each receiving a D. Hazardous waste also received a D, which is significant because site cleanup is imperative to the safety of our nation’s water supply. The report, which is issued every four years, also noted that in order to bring our infrastructure up to par by 2020, the United States would have to invest $3.6 trillion. And while $3.6 trillion may seem daunting, the cost of allowing the nation’s infrastructure to crumble would be exponentially higher. Effective water infrastructure is imperative for maintaining public health, and a significant component of our nation’s economic viability.

Much of our nation’s water infrastructure dates back to WWII or earlier, with some east coast communities still using pipes that were installed in the late 1800’s. The Clean Water Act passed in 1974, and with it the country saw a boom in construction of wastewater treatment plants, many of which are now 30-40 years old, and likely in need of rehabilitation or replacement. The useful life cycle of pipes and treatment plants varies greatly, and is largely dependent on materials used, environment, and upkeep. In fact, some pipes from the early 1900’s are in better condition than those that are half their age. Therefore, it is critical that communities utilize methodologies such as Capital Efficiency Plans™ that evaluate the actual condition of critical components of infrastructure so that they make the most effective use of their very limited infrastructure dollars.

In 2002, the U.S. EPA released the Clean Water and Drinking Water Gap Analysis Report, which compared America’s drinking water and wastewater infrastructure needs to the available revenues of utilities. The report showed a projected gap in funding of over $500 billion over the next 20 years. And that’s just straightforward funding. These estimates do not include factors such as population growth or climate change, which will likely increase the funding gap significantly. So where do we start?

Finding a Solution

First and foremost, we must find a way to close the funding gap, which will require a multi-faceted approach. Community outreach and education on the value of water and on our nation’s critical infrastructure needs will be paramount as utilities request higher rates and better conservation practices to implement improvements and meet growing demand. And while rate increases will provide a portion of the much-needed funding, and conservation will help lower demand, utilities will still need to execute careful asset management in order to effectively improve our infrastructure long-term. In addition, implementation of effective management practices will dramatically increase utilities’ efficiency and sustainability. In fact, the EPA and six major professional associations in the water sector came together to develop and advocate an approach through the Effective Utility Management (EUM) partnership, which detailed ten attributes of effectively managed water sector utilities along with a framework for implementation in order to assist utilities with management practices in today’s challenging and complex climate.

business handshakeBut utilities and consumers alone will be unable to carry the full burden of the funding gap, and so we must look to more creative solutions. Already enacted in 2014 as part of the Water Resources and Reform Development Act, WIFIA provides low-interest federal loans for up to 49% of large drinking water, wastewater, and water reuse projects. Another option includes tax incentives for industry to implement water efficiency and recycling/reuse projects. These incentives will encourage more active involvement from the private sector, who many believe hold the key to funding the infrastructure of the future. In recent years, as public funding has drastically decreased while the need for infrastructure improvements has expanded, utilities and governments have become increasingly interested in public-private partnerships, or P3s. Of special note is the fact that the federal government is now encouraging and even providing assistance to the private sector to fund infrastructure. If current trending continues, it seems likely that P3s will hold a significant role in the future of water and wastewater infrastructure funding.

In Conclusion

dam inspection
Bunnells Pond Dam, CT, inspected by Tata & Howard in April 2015

In the United States, we have come to expect and even take for granted safe, clean drinking water at the turn of a tap and wastewater neatly whisked away without giving it a second thought. But if we take a moment to think about our lives without water infrastructure, we quickly realize how much we depend on it, and how important it is to maintaining a healthy, viable economy and country. Therefore, it is imperative that we collectively research and implement innovative ways in which to rehabilitate and replace our nation’s failing water infrastructure.

“For the U.S. economy to be the most competitive in the world, we need a first class infrastructure system,” said the ASCE report. “We must commit today to make our vision of the future a reality—an American infrastructure system that is the source of our prosperity.”