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Unleashing Innovation to Address Aging Water Infrastructure

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Scott Jensen
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Every four years the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) issues grades fifteen infrastructure categories. On the 2017 Infrastructure Report Card, ASCE gave the nation’s drinking water infrastructure a “D”, with over 6 billion gallons of treated water being lost every day. With an estimated $1 trillion needed to address this growing problem, it is crucial that a variety of innovative materials are allowed to be considered during the procurement process in order to make the most of the dollars spent on water and sewer infrastructure.

There are many cities, counties, and municipalities which have restrictive, closed bidding processes which only allow for specific types of materials, hampering competition and resulting in missed cost savings to taxpayers. Open competition allows for engineers to have all available materials that meet performance specifications when selecting materials for water infrastructure projects. This open competition process does not mandate the use of any one material, and leaves the final material selection in the hands of the engineer, even when it may not be the least expensive option.

In the past there have been only a limited number of materials that have been considered through the bidding process. Modern infrastructure challenges may can be best met with modern technology. Chemistry is a proven material which can ensure that governments provide high performing materials at an affordable cost per mile in comparison to other commonly used materials. Plastic pipes such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC) are highly resistant to corrosion leading to a lifespan of more than 100 years, while meeting several organizational standards for durability such as ASTM, AWWA, and NSF.

Open competition can help governments meet the extreme need for updating water and sewer infrastructure. There is an estimated 26% savings when open competition procurement policies, and additional competition drives costs down even when alternative materials are not selected for a project. 

American Chemistry Council

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) represents the leading companies engaged in the business of chemistry. ACC members apply the science of chemistry to make innovative products and services that make people's lives better, healthier and safer. ACC is committed to improved environmental, health and safety performance through Responsible Care®; common sense advocacy designed to address major public policy issues; and health and environmental research and product testing. The business of chemistry is a $486 billion enterprise and a key element of the nation's economy. It is among the largest exporters in the nation, accounting for ten percent of all U.S. goods exports. Chemistry companies are among the largest investors in research and development. Safety and security have always been primary concerns of ACC members, and they have intensified their efforts, working closely with government agencies to improve security and to defend against any threat to the nation’s critical infrastructure.

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