Industry Trends: The Rising Costs of Crumbling Infrastructure, Part II

Crumbling Infrastructure—Background and Scope

While it is easy to look at the staggering financial figures and wonder how our country could require upwards of trillions of dollars to solve these problems over the course of only a few decades, it is important to consider the scope of the work to be completed and possible solutions to the problems associated with the rising costs of crumbling water and wastewater infrastructure.


In July of 2013, a Senate hearing took place to discuss this issue. According to the testimony of Gerald E. Galloway, P.E., Ph.D., Glenn L. Martin, Institute Professor Of Engineering, University of Maryland, among the infrastructure that needs improvement are: 

14,780 municipal waste water treatment facilities. The normal life span of such facilities varies by type but is in the range of 25 years for mechanical-electrical components and 50 years for structures. As with drinking water piping, there is no national inventory of wastewater piping but estimates range from 700,000 to 800,000 miles, much of which was installed immediately following World War II and is now at the end of its useful life.  The growing need to develop adequate storm water capacity adds to the challenge. (Capacity limitations of 19th century storm water drainage caused a significant flood in the Washington DC Federal triangle in 2006).1

PIPE031_lowIn other words, 700,000 to 800,000 miles of pipeline are in need of improvement because they are about a century old, which is twice as old as the years of useful life for such structures and four times as old as the useful life for the mechanical-electrical components of these structures. When you keep this in mind, it is no surprise the financial costs are so high. And with such outdated structures across the nation, current and future public health and safety problems are inevitable.

Solving These Problems

That is why RJN and other engineering consulting firms are working hard with municipalities to simultaneously drive down these costs with innovative, efficient solutions while also improving the infrastructure in such a way as to keep it sustainable in order to avoid more problems in the future.

As RJN CEO/President Alan Hollenbeck, P.E., BCEE, puts it, “As a direct result of our 40 years of experience as wastewater collection system specialists, RJN Group offers clients the following benefits: lower collection system life cycle costs, lower overall collection system project risks, and higher quality and long-term value from collection system asset condition data.”

Thus, overall, RJN Group, Inc. is uniquely qualified to tackle the problems resulting from the rising costs of crumbling water and wastewater infrastructure because we offer cost-effective and long-lasting solutions.

The next part of our series, “Part III: Government Intervention,” will provide an overview of recent efforts by the federal government to address the rising costs of water and wastewater infrastructure improvements.

Part II Endnotes

  1. Galloway, Gerald E. Testimony. “Senate Hearing on Aging Water Infrastructure in U.S.” July 25, 2013.