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2021 Texas Infrastructure Report Card: What Does It Say and What Does It Mean for Texas?

03.04.2021

DURATION 2 minute read

Communities expect our infrastructure to work effectively, but we cannot afford to take it for granted. That is why every 4 years, civil engineers with the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Texas Chapter come together to evaluate the state of Texas’s infrastructure. This information is compiled in an Infrastructure Report Card (IRC) that offers a snapshot of the current health and performance of our vital infrastructure.

This piece of information is important for public transparency and helps generate positive dialogue with local leaders on how to provide better, more resilient infrastructure for our growing population. The ASCE Texas Chapter just released the 2021 Texas Infrastructure Report Card, and I had the honor of being on the committee that focused on water and wastewater, which includes drinking water and wastewater infrastructure. Here are some of the biggest take-aways from this year’s report:

 

What’s in the 2021 Texas IRC? 

For this report, the committee analyzed 12 types of infrastructure categories against a grading criterion that includes 8 metrics: capacity, condition, funding, future needs, operation and maintenance, public safety, resiliency, and innovation. Based on these metrics, the committee concluded Texas has an infrastructure “GPA” of a C, which demonstrates a slight improvement from the previous report’s C- in 2017.

Several infrastructure categories are in “good to fair condition,” but a C indicates much of our infrastructure continues to decline. If left unchanged, certain infrastructure categories can hinder the growth and competitiveness of Texas’s economy, so this year’s report will be crucial for local engineers and leaders to evaluate which areas need our attention the most.

Below is the overall grade for each 12 infrastructure types:

2021 TExas Infrastructure Report Card

Water & Wastewater Take-Aways 

As a member of the Water & Wastewater committee, I have experienced first-hand the overall state of our drinking water and wastewater infrastructure. In terms of drinking water, the committee awarded the infrastructure a C-, which was an improvement from the 2017 IRC rating of a D+. Though this section has improved, Texas’s population is expected to grow, which the IRC warns could lead to a drinking water shortage by 2070 if no additional water supplies are developed.

When evaluating our wastewater infrastructure, the committee saw that sanitary sewer overflows (SSO) have doubled in frequency over the past 4 years. It seems facilities are also more frequently impacted and sometimes inoperable during extreme weather events like Winter Storm Uri and Hurricane Harvey. These factors along with others caused our wastewater infrastructure rating to remain at a D, identifying this category of infrastructure as a critical area of focus for the next 4 years.

The report card offers multiple suggestions on how civil engineers, political leaders and residents can help improve the state’s water infrastructure – most notably through increased funding and improved asset management. A complete list of recommendations is included in the report.

Why this Matters for Texas Civil Engineers?

As civil engineers, we have a responsibility to safeguard the health and welfare of our communities. Part of this responsibility includes providing the public and our elected leaders with vital information about the current state of our infrastructure. It is crucial for us to continue evaluating our infrastructure to identify areas for improvements and maintenance so our critical infrastructure can meet the needs of current and future Texas citizens.

The results from the ASCE IRC help get the conversation started with local leaders on how to make well-informed decisions regarding the state’s infrastructure. This process of continuous analysis and evaluation will allow us to work together to continue improving Texas communities.

You can learn more about our team of civil engineers and the work we do in our communities across Texas, here.

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