Water and sewer system upgrades could cost more than $1.5 billion, new study finds
POLITICO Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell has been a vocal advocate of expanding access to water, and she is pushing for the Department of Water and Sewer Service (DWSS) to add more water filtration systems and install new sensors.
The latest research suggests that more than half of the estimated $1 billion the DWSS budget for its 2017 budget is spent on water systems.
The study by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service found that the Department spends nearly $2.3 billion on water and sewer systems each year.
That means the agency has spent about $1,000 per person per year on water filters, which account for nearly 80 percent of the total cost.
The DWSS spends about $400 million on sewer water systems, including the cost of installing new equipment.
The report also found that in 2016, the department spent more than 50 percent of its total $9 billion in discretionary spending on water, sewer and sanitary systems, which are used to keep water flowing to cities and communities.
The other 44 percent was for programs such as the water and sewage department and other related functions.
In an interview, Burwell said the data from the CRS study was the best we have on what’s being spent on the water system.
She said the water systems were underfunded and underutilized by both the federal government and state and local governments, which means they have a huge amount of unused infrastructure and need more attention.
The new study, titled Water Systems, Wastewater Treatment and Water-Disposal Systems, was released Thursday, a day before Burwell will be sworn in as secretary of the department.
The report looked at water systems for each of the Department’s five agencies.
It found that about two-thirds of the cost goes to infrastructure, and nearly half of that is for water.
The other three-quarters is spent for wastewater treatment and disposal.
The remaining third is spent to cover capital costs.
The total cost for each agency is $1 million, according to the report.
The DWSS said it is working to meet the recommendations of the study, including installing more than 2,400 new water filter and wastewater systems by 2020.
The agency has $2 billion in available funding for the system upgrades.
The Department of Homeland Security has $1 for every $1 it spends on water.
The EPA spent $3 billion last year on its own water systems and wastewater.
The department said the recommendations were a way to improve efficiency and make water systems more resilient.
“We are going to be investing more in our water and wastewater system in order to address our water quality and the risks that come with that,” Burwell told reporters on Thursday.
Burwell’s administration has already taken steps to make water system investments.
Earlier this year, the Department started to use new technology to reduce the amount of bacteria and other contaminants in wastewater and to improve the quality of the water supply.
The Department of Energy has been experimenting with the technology and has identified a few companies that can produce high-efficiency water filters and other technology.
In February, the EPA released its own draft guidance on the technology.
Burout said the guidance is still working on how to incorporate it into water systems nationwide.
The EPA also is developing a model for reducing contaminants in drinking water that will be included in its next rule, which is expected to be issued in 2020.