Underground Construction’s 13th Annual Municipal Infrastructure Survey: Signs Of Life in Sewer/Water Economy

Stimulus Offers Small Aid; Slow Turnaround As Year Progresses
By Robert Carpenter, Editor | February 2010 Vol. 65 No. 2

The results were that as 2010 drew near, many cities found themselves with an unexpected stash of cash. “We were five years behind where we needed to be with our rehab program,” observed a Northeast respondent. “Now, we’re six years behind. And the bad thing is that even as the economy improves, we won’t receive additional funding to catch up – we’ll always stay behind.” When asked how much additional funding to their routine, annual budgets would be necessary to allow cities to catch up with needs, answers ranged from 10 percent to 100 percent with the average at 27.5 percent.

Another respondent from the Southwest commented, “With an aging infrastructure, it will be difficult to receive enough funding to actually maintain the collections systems, let alone the treatment plant.”

Comments and complaints about spending and hiring freezes and staff cutbacks were also common and appeared to be widespread among municipal staffs. But it is apparent that there are pockets of projects kicking off this spring with increasing plans for early summer. Most respondents indicated they were very anxious to get back on track with projects delayed far too long.

munifig5.png

In addition to funding, municipal personnel cited government and Environmental Protection Agency regulations and enforcement as a top concern in 2010. A respondent from the Southeast emphasized: “Just because there is a recession, it doesn’t mean the EPA has cut back on its enforcement emphasis – we’re hearing they are going to actually step up enforcement.”
Also being cited as a strong concern were safety and damage prevention issues. “It seems like more and more, our sewer or water lines are being damaged by construction for other utilities – we’re very concerned,” said this West Coast municipal official.

Trenchless
Trenchless methods continue to have a strong impact on sewer and water construction and rehabilitation. Almost 58 percent report using trenchless techniques during the last year. Of those who have not used trenchless, 52.1 percent plan on doing so in 2010 and 75.3 percent anticipate utilizing trenchless within the next five years.

While 40.5 percent report that trenchless methods have had a minimum impact on their city’s construction and rehab efforts, 59.5 percent report a moderate to strong impact.

munifig6.png