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In a new survey from the Water Environment Federation, 58% of 804 water system respondents identified the need for additional funding for their stormwater programs. Photo Credit: JJ Gouin, Adobe Stock

A second national-scale inquiry into resources and requirements of stormwater management organizations has revealed an annual funding gap of $8.5 billion, according to a survey of 800 water systems across the U.S.

Stormwater, or urban runoff, is one of the fastest growing sources of water pollution in many waterways across the U.S., particularly as 70% of the U.S. population is set to shift to urban areas by 2050. Climate change will also lead to an increase in droughts in some areas and more frequent and intense storms in others.

In the new survey, 58% of 804 water system respondents identified the need for additional funding for their stormwater programs. The stormwater funding gap — up 10% over the same Water Environment Federation (WEF) survey conducted in 2018 — is based on data collected from more than 800 systems in 47 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, through the WEF’s 2020 National Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Needs Assessment Survey.

“The stormwater infrastructure that is vital to the health of our communities and our environment is in desperate need of increased and sustained investment,” announced WEF President Lynn Broaddus, in a statement.

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Municipal governments in the U.S. annually spend an estimated $18 to $24 billion on stormwater infrastructure and programs.

The 2020 survey results also revealed aging infrastructure and increasing regulations as challenges. Stormwater system managers reported needing assistance with technical resources for financing, asset management and watershed-based planning.

Aging infrastructure, funding and availability of capital, as well as increasing or expanding regulations were the most frequently cited challenges. More than 50% of respondents ranked all three of these issues as either “challenging” or “very challenging.”

Broaddus also commented on the latest infrastructure report from the American Society of Civil Engineers, which for the first time in 20 years graded U.S. infrastructure outside of the “D” range with a mark of “C-minus”. Water infrastructure, however, did not fare as well, and this year, stormwater was added as a category for the first time to the engineering report.

“In the United States wastewater received a D-plus, stormwater a D, and drinking water a C-minus. Clearly these grades are unacceptable,” Broaddus announced in a video statement, adding that she will continue to urge Congress to increase funding.

WEF supports increased funding for stormwater systems through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, new EPA Sewer Overflow & Stormwater Municipal Reuse Grant, and Water Infrastructure Financing & Innovation Act (WIFIA).

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