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Eek! The mushrooming cost of water infrastructure

Massachusetts auditor Suzanne Bump has often spoken out about the problem of underfunded maintenance, which may conserve government dollars in the short-term, but creates ballooning future costs and a limited ability to deal with them long-term.

Case in point: The February newsletter from her office draws attention to a municipal impact study, which found that Massachusetts municipalities face $17.8 billion in water infrastructure needs over the next 20 years. Climate shifts and economic development will add to that cost burden, she said. The report identifies the greatest needs in the wastewater treatment area, followed by clean water delivery and stormwater management. It suggests a new state water fund to support local water infrastructure projects, but also notes that many local governments have failed to take advantage of loans and grants that are already available.

The auditor’s report was based on a survey, which garnered responses from 146 Massachusetts cities and towns (about 42 percent of the total and 88 percent of the Commonwealth’s cities of 50,000 plus population.)


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