Four overarching issues should be highlighted for water infrastructure management:
1. Achieving the United Nations’ Millennium goal (described above) of significantly increasing the availability of clean water throughout the world is a major challenge. Significant new investments and technology will be needed.
2. Dealing with water shortages in areas where demand exceeds sustainable supplies. Prioritizing water uses, seeking new sources and expanding re-use are possible strategies in these areas.
3. Pollution prevention and treatment continue to be major concerns. New pollutants such as hormones or bio-terrorism provide new challenges.
4. Replacing and improving existing water infrastructure is an issue in many parts of the world. In the ASCE, the water infrastructure receives a grade of barely passing (D) (ASCE, 2005) and components are continuing to age.
Financing investments for dealing with these challenges is proving to be difficult.
The US EPA believes that ‘better management practices, efficient water use, full-cost pricing of water and a watershed approach to protection can all help utilities to operate more sustainably now and in the long-term (EPA).
- Better Management of water and wastewater utilities can encompass practices like asset management and environmental management systems. Consolidation and public/private partnerships could also offer utilities significant savings.
- Rates that reflect the Full Cost Pricing of service and rate restructuring can help utilities capture the actual costs of operating water systems, raise revenues, and also help to conserve water.
- Efficient Water Use is critical, particularly in those parts of the country that are undergoing water shortages. We need to create market incentives to encourage more efficient use of water and to protect our sources of water.
- Watershed Approaches looks more broadly at water resources in a coordinated way, which is challenging because we have not traditionally thought of infrastructure management within the context of water quality protection.