17th Annual Municipal Survey

In Search Of The Silver Lining
By Robert Carpenter, Editor | February 2014, Vol. 69 No. 2

In the meantime, congressional appropriations for the CWSRF and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds (DWSRF) continue to decrease. Federal agency budgets for fiscal year 2014 have been operating under a continuing resolution. That means they are set at the same level as in fiscal 2013, but were reduced further as a result of sequestration, the across-the-board cuts to each agency enacted in early 2013. CWSRF is being funded at a level of $1.379 billion in fiscal 2014 and the DWSRF at $863.3 million. Even with recent progress in budget work by both houses of Congress, the funding for those programs is not expected to rise. In fact, it may be even cut further.

Assets and trenchless

Asset management programs have been a major industry buzz term for several years. However, the survey found that only 21 percent of cities have a fully-in-place and operational asset management program. Just over 46 percent of cities do have such a plan in development while 32.9 percent have no plans at this time to develop an asset management program.

When it comes to rehabilitation of underground pipes, most cities still utilize dig-and-replace/repair as their primary method. However, trenchless rehab continues to gain ground with cities reporting that trenchless methods are the prescribed solution in 41.6 percent of projects. For new construction, trenchless installation accounts for about 15 percent of the work.

Trenchless construction and rehabilitation has gained strong favor with cities. Survey respondents report that they actually prefer trenchless solutions 52.7 percent of the time compared to 24.3 percent that prefer open-cut and 22.9 percent said it didn’t matter which techniques were used as long as the project was successfully completed.

In addition to funding concerns, coping both with increasing government regulations and the EPA was cited as a major issue by over 60 percent of the municipal respondents. Damage prevention and safety remains a major concern for about 50 percent of municipalities.

Another area of concern cited by muni managers mirrors a major issue for contractors: replacing retiring employees and finding/hiring qualified personnel. Cities, due to heavily structured and frequently rigid pay scales, often find it hard to compete with private industry.

Manhole replacement remains a huge area of emphasis for cities. In 2014, it is anticipated that 83 percent of all U.S. cities will be replacing or rehabilitating an average of 163 manholes each.