Water supply and delivery projects are the pipeline for economic opportunity

Opinion section
Valley News - Opinion

Greg Thomas

Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District

While health and safety of our water supply remains our top priority, reliable water service is an enabling force for economic growth and improves the quality of life for families.

According to a recent study by the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Value of Water, the United States needs to invest $109 billion per year in water infrastructure over the next 20 years to close the water infrastructure gap. Industry studies also show that every $1 million spent on water supply development and treatment projects creates 15-17 jobs. Some of those jobs are the direct result of construction, but many more stem from the ripple effect – jobs created by the demand for goods and services.

The same statistics were true during the Great Recession from 2007 to 2009, according to a study at the time by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. Using this data, correlating jobs to EVMWD’s Capital Improvement Program resulted in 420 jobs within the community for 2018, 382 for 2019 and so far, 335 jobs created in 2020.

The infrastructure-economy link is encouraging, considering the pressing need for repair and replacement of aging pipes, pumps, reservoirs and other critical water system components across our region and beyond. EVMWD maintains more than 1400 miles of pipelines and dozens of water and wastewater facilities which stretch from Corona to Murrieta. Many water agencies in Southern California, including Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District, have pipes, pumps and facilities dating back to the 1950s that has understandably reached the end of its useful life.

The pandemic has further shown that the public health benefits, from access to safe water for handwashing to recycling and highly treating wastewater, are immeasurable in helping prevent the spread of the virus. Beyond the health and safety our water and wastewater systems provide our customers, a functioning water system is also critical to a healthy and productive economy.

We plan and budget for capital projects years in advance for our water, wastewater and recycled water operations.

EVMWD’s master plan includes a list of phased projects through 2040 that allows the district to ensure timely replacement of aging facilities, upgrades to meet new regulations or demands and provide new facilities necessary to meet future growth.

Upcoming projects, include a $40 million upgrade to its wastewater plant that will improve reliability and a $140 million expansion of the plant to increase capacity for our growing community. Utilizing grant funding to assist in offsetting costs, these projects will create direct and indirect jobs in the skilled trades, project management and among suppliers, as well as among local restaurants and retailers where those employees spend their money.

These improvements aren’t just necessary, they are critical for ongoing operations and the capability to serve our customers. The ASCE study shows that if we do not invest in the infrastructure now, families would pay for deferred maintenance costs at a rate of seven times higher in 2040 than they are today. The pandemic is intensifying the need to act. Conversely, the ASCE said, that investments in water infrastructure spurs economic growth and leads to tremendous gains in public health, setting the stage for generations of prosperity. Water system projects are an investment in our community and a tool for keeping the economy flowing.

A reliable water system supports the economy, protects public health and the environment and brings us a higher quality of life. A win-win for all involved.

Greg Thomas is the general manager of Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District.