Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued the results of the 2022 Clean Watersheds Needs Survey (CWNS), outlining wastewater, stormwater, and other clean water infrastructure needs. Through the survey, all U.S. states and territories provided voluntary data on investments needed to meet the water quality goals of the Clean Water Act over the next 20 years.

In late December 2022, NEIWPCC submitted comments to the EPA requesting a six-month extension to submit data for the CWNS on behalf of our seven member states. This request resulted from NEIWPCC’s Executive Committee meeting, where there was consensus that states were struggling to get timely participation from wastewater treatment plants. States and clean water organizations had faced monumental challenges over the previous two years, including the ongoing pandemic, staffing challenges, and ensuring effective spending of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding, that was diverting attention away from the survey. Additionally, the survey was labor intensive and often took multiple requests of publicly owned treatment works and other interested parties for states to get an appropriate response.

In agreement that more time was warranted, the EPA extended the survey deadline to May 2023. The survey extension helped to ensure that the data collected was accurate, complete, and in the best shape to be utilized by the EPA, Congress, and other stakeholders.

“Getting this positive outcome to our comment letter was a big win for all the states,” said Richard Friesner, NEIWPCC’s director of Water Quality Programs. “NEIWPCC was proud to represent the interests of our member states in this important matter and get meaningful results that will have a lasting impact on infrastructure understanding and funding for the region.”

Not completing the CWNS could have resulted in an inaccurate portrayal of the industry status and funding needs – causing funding shortfalls, infrastructure issues, and deterioration of water quality. The resulting report is being shared with Congress, quantifying the nation’s total wastewater infrastructure needs and serving as a reference when allocating infrastructure-related funding across the country.

The 2022 CWNS Report shows that more than $630 billion will be needed for clean water infrastructure over the next 20 years. This represents a 73% increase in total reported needs since the previous 2012 report.