New EPA Report: Nearly $80 Billion Needed for Wastewater Infrastructure in Great Lakes States

Federal investment fails to keep pace with need. At current funding levels, it will take 160 years to meet wastewater infrastructure needs of region.

Nearly $80 billion is needed over the next 20 years to curb sewage overflows and protect community drinking water in the eight Great Lakes states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York, according to a new report by the U.S. EPA. The agency’s recently released "2012 Clean Watershed Needs Survey" assesses the state of wastewater infrastructure in the United States, including general water treatment plant infrastructure, issues with leaks or overflows, and stormwater management. In 2012, wastewater infrastructure needs nationally totaled $271 billion.

Read the full report:

“This report underscores the urgent need to help local communities fix sewers so that every person in this country has access to safe, clean water,” said Todd Ambs, campaign director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. “Up-to-date wastewater infrastructure is critical for the health of the Great Lakes and communities around the region. This report shows how much work we have left to do.”

Pollution from sewer overflows and stormwater runoff contributes to beach closures and destruction of fish and wildlife habitat. Updating wastewater infrastructure is expensive, but states can find some relief from the burden in the Clean Water State Revolving Fund—a low interest loan program funded by the federal government to help offset the cost of wastewater infrastructure projects.

Unfortunately, federal investment is not keeping pace with the need of local communities. In the current fiscal year budget passed by congress in December, $1.39 billion was allocated to the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, with $504 million for the eight Great Lakes states. To meet the needs of Great Lakes communities and ensure clean water, the federal government would need to increase its investment to approximately $4 billion per year for the eight Great Lakes states alone.  Put another way, at current funding levels, it will take 160 years to meet the needs of local communities in the region.

“The status quo is inadequate and leaves communities at continued risk for sewage contamination, which threatens our public health and harms our environment and economy,” said Ambs. “At the current rate of funding it would take 160 years to address the need in Great Lakes communities. This report should serve as a wakeup call for our nation’s elected officials to stop kicking the can down the road and to make the necessary investments to support our communities, protect our clean water, and restore our iconic waters like the Great Lakes.”

Fully funding the Clean Water State Revolving Fund is a top priority for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. The Coalition also supports funding the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, which helps communities update drinking water infrastructure.

While the recent EPA report did not assess the investment needed to help communities around the country update their drinking water infrastructure, the recent drinking water crisis in Flint, Mich., underscores the ongoing need to fix outdated drinking water infrastructure in the United States. In 2013 the EPA estimated that $384 billion was needed through 2030 to update the nation’s drinking water infrastructure to provide safe drinking water to the country’s nearly 300 million residents. 

The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition is urging President Obama and the U.S. Congress to make the necessary investments in national wastewater and drinking water infrastructure to protect communities and people. The Obama Administration releases its proposed budget February 9.

Related Resources

Read the Report

2012 Clean Watershed Needs Survey

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