One Voice

By Robert Carpenter, Editor | March 2012, Vol. 67 No. 3

While I understand that they each have their own agendas, one would think the piping infrastructure, so critical to their members, would be near the top of those agendas. Sadly, that’s not the case. ASCE by definition is extremely diverse. The underground infrastructures interests typically funnel through the Pipelines Committee. However, that committee is very much restricted in what it can and cannot do. The ASCE’s Report Card on America (last updated in 2009) is a strong message but unfortunately it is mixed in with other infrastructure grades and after a brief spat of national publicity, interest and concern wanes with our attention-deficit Congress.

The leadership of WEF and AWWA seem to be primarily concerned with treatment and processing. In fact, WEF’s tag line is “The Water Quality People” and AWWA calls itself the “Authoritative Resource on Safe Water.” No doubt these are extremely important areas of focus. However, thewastewater collections systems or potable water distribution systems are equally important and deserving of attention and support.

Way back in my college days, I took a freshman PoliSci class consisting of a lecture taught by a professor to more than 250 students on Mondays, then much smaller lab classes on Wednesdays and Fridays. The labs were supposed to supplement, support and prepare us for the professor’s weekly lecture to the masses using his book as the course reference source.

The textbook was authored by the professor. Problem was that the labs were taught by a dozen graduate assistants who never seemed to talk to each other, let alone the professor. Each assistant cruised through the textbook at their own teaching pace. When we got back to the full lecture each week, there were literally a dozen student groups on a different page. It eventually got worked out, but it took weeks of unnecessary and counter-productive mass mayhem.

The book of public infrastructure funding is intimidating to anyone wanting to investigate the subject. The chapters are diverse, poorly organized and difficult to process. In short, it is Washington at its worse. And unfortunately, the underground infrastructure is mired and lost in those thousands of pages.