U.S. water infrastructure needs: ‘The cost is massive and the cost of not doing it is massive’ — David LaFrance


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Water infrastructure in the United States is aging and by 2035 could cost $1 trillion to update or replace. Water users should expect to pay higher rates, said David LaFrance, executive director of the America Water Works Association at the closing luncheon of the Colorado Water Congress on Friday.

“The cost is massive and the cost of not doing it is massive,” LaFrance said. “Household bills will go up as the costs keep coming. AWWA is trying to figure out how to do it so the customers aren’t stymied by costs.” The largest costs of water investment are not the dams, pumping stations and other parts visible to the naked eye, but the pipes buried underground.

The bulk of that infrastructure was installed after World War II, and will continue to deteriorate, LaFrance said.

AWWA is working to secure national funding to pay the costs, since 85 percent of the water systems in the U.S. are considered very small. A challenge for larger utilities will be to ensure that costs do not unduly burden poorer customers, he added.

The group also named Sterling native Diane Hoppe, a former state representative and now a member of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, as the Wayne Aspinall Water Leader of the Year.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

One of the high points of a water conference that stressed getting future generations interested in water invoked a figure from a century ago.

J.C. Ulrich, an engineer who designed Rio Grande Reservoir, read a few of his letters from the period of 1905­ 1912 during construction. He described the surveying work, conditions for the workmen, disputes with contractors and even the quality of food during construction. Well, actually it was Colorado Supreme Court Justice Greg Hobbs in character — complete with a stout black moustache and bowler hat — reading the letters at the Colorado Water Congress Friday.

Some of the presentations at the conference looked at how younger people can be persuaded to enter careers in water-related fields. Hobbs, a fine actor known for dramatic reading of his own poetry, reprised the role of Ulrich that he created for the 100th anniversary of the reservoir last summer.

The reservoir’s construction came after an 1896 embargo on building reservoirs in the Upper Rio Grande was lifted. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the 1938 Rio Grande Compact among Colorado, New Mexico and Texas.

Water attorneys Bill Paddock and Dave Robbins explained how the compact divides water among the states. A treaty with Mexico also affects the river. Disputes over the Rio Grande date back to the 1880s, when a drought, railroad and canal development converged on the upper portion of the river in Colorado. A 1906 treaty lifted the embargo and allowed the construction of the reservoir.

More infrastructure coverage here.

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