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volume 2 - resource management Strategies

Major Issues Facing Drinking Water Treatment and Distribution

Based on a review of issues discussed within the water supply industry and regulatory agencies, the following represent some of the most significant challenges facing public water suppliers and the regulatory agencies today.

Deteriorating Infrastructure

With the aging of the nation’s infrastructure and the growing investment needed to replace deteriorated facilities, the water industry faces a significant challenge to sustain and advance its achievements in protecting public health and the environment (Grumbles, 2007). Over the last several decades, the public investment has been toward expanding and upgrading service levels, such as providing higher levels of treatment. At the same time, our urban areas have expanded with a reduced density of urban population. This means we are living farther away from the central hub of the community. This requires more investment in water and wastewater facilities for the same number of people. Both of these issues—higher treatment levels and expanded service areas—result in less available funds to maintain the present infrastructure.

New solutions are needed for critical drinking water investments over the next two decades. Not meeting the investment needs of the next 20 years risks reversing the public health, environmental, and economic gains made within our communities. Water utilities are moving to the concept of asset management to better manage and maintain their water facilities and infrastructure (Cromwell et al., 2007) for greater operational efficiency and effective use of limited funds. However, addressing infrastructure will add to the cost of water.

Asset management alone will not fix the basic problem. Current water rates in the majority of water systems are typically not adequate to address new regulatory requirements as well as maintain the existing facilities, and often do not generate adequate reserves to address infrastructure replacement. Water supplies may be undervalued based on the typical water rate paid by consumers versus the great role water plays in the health and well-being of our communities. However, with increasing costs for food, fuel, and energy, additional increases in the cost of receiving potable water may be a serious problem for many residents, especially those on fixed income.

CDPH also has set aside funding from the DWSRF program to provide technical assistance to small water system operators and managers on technical, managerial, and financial areas. Additional funding in this area would allow the expansion of this program into more detailed areas of asset management and rate setting.

Source Water Protection

There is an increasing need to protect source water quality as the first critical barrier in the multiple barrier approach to providing safe drinking water. A key issue is the


caLifoRnia WateR PLan | update 2009

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