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Water is the universal lifeblood….

A clean and reliable water source for drinking, cooking, growing food, and basic hygiene needs provides the foundation for healthy communities and vibrant economies.

According to the Montana chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers, Montana has over 5,300 miles of water distribution and transmission piping – a longer stretch than driving from Billings to Miami . . . and back.

In 2011, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality identified an immediate water system financial need of $885 million.  This estimated investment deficit is based on three critical elements:  age of the facilities, capacity demands, and increasing regulatory requirements.

Age:  Engineers estimate that the structural service life of most pipes is approximately 75 years (see attached photos of 75 to 100 year old pipe replaced in Cascade).  Many of Montana’s small to medium-sized communities were platted in the early 1900’s and much of their water piping has never been replaced, and older and mCorroded Pipeore established communities have water pipes that date back to the late 1800’s.  In response to a survey conducted by ASCE, 90 percent of responding communities reported that they are replacing none, or very little of their water distribution system on an annual basis, even while experiencing major leaks.  Some small communities experience in excess of 10 leaks per year, and one larger community reported 15 major and 40 minor leaks in 2013.

Capacity:  Population growth puts additional strains on infrastructure.  Of the communities responding to the ASCE poll, 35 percent said their water treatment systems had zero additional capacity.  Over 60 percent reported less than five years of remaining capacity.  Only five percent suggested they had 20 years of capacity in their systems.  Similar figures were reported for the water distribution systems themselves.

Regulatory Compliance:  Of the 700 community water systems in Montana 158 (23 %) are not currently in compliance with regulatory requirements associated with the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act.

The total cost to replace Montana’s entire water and wastewater infrastructure is estimated to range between $12 billion and $15 billion.  ASCE estimates that the total annual reinvestment by Montana communities is currently around $165 million, statewide.  At this rate of investment, it will take 90 years to replace our aging water infrastructure – this includes both pipelines (with a structural lifespan of 75 years) and water treatment systems (with a service life of approximately 25 years).

Obviously, not all of our water systems need near-term replacement, but with an “immediate” need identified at $885 million (in 2011) and annual expenditures at only $165 million, our current funding pattern will continue to fall woefully short of ever-mounting maintenance, repair, upgrade and replacement needs.

The Infrastructure Coalition is working on a non-partisan legislative package that will help to address some of our most pressing infrastructure needs.  Please join us in expressing your support for comprehensive and sustainable legislation that will begin to address critical infrastructure needs, keep our talented workforce fully employed, and shore up the foundations of a healthy economy in Montana.

About the Montana Infrastructure Coalition

The Montana Infrastructure Coalition is an association of over 70 public and private organizations involved in the design, construction, operation and maintenance of our most critical infrastructure in Montana.  The purpose of this Coalition is to help change public policy and improve the manner in which State and local governments build and maintain these essential community assets.

The Coalition met with Butte Officials

The Coalition met with Butte Officials

The Montana Infrastructure Coalition presented the coalition’s goals to Butte officials Monday July 11 that illustrated the need to direct more money to local roads, sewers and other public infrastructure in Montana.

If you didn’t know, the Montana Infrastructure Coalition began this spring of 2016, after a $150 million bill funding infrastructure and building projects across the state died in the Montana Legislature.

Tim Burton, executive director of the Montana League of Cities and Towns, said the new group was nonpartisan, had raised $100,000 already rather easily and 50 organizations already had joined. He said there was interest in Butte and other cities and towns to get on board.

  • The 2017 legislative session won’t start until January, but the Coalition will initiate its mission early.
  • Key points of the presentation include:
  • The Coalition is not a political organization, it is a research and education organization
  • The Coalition is a long-term enterprise
  • Identify adequately fund for the most pressing local needs for roads, bridges, sewers, water and other infrastructure
  • All but three of Montana’s 129 incorporated cities and towns belong to the Coalition
  • The bill that failed in 2015 would have provided at least $150 million in cash and bonding authority for local government infrastructure and state long-range building projects
  • The bill would also arrange a state loan up to $10 million to help pay for construction of a long-sought veterans home in Butte
  • Give cities with more weight more priority in getting state dollars
  • Examine all ways of funding local infrastructure projects and decide which ones to pursue in 2017 and beyond
  • Suggest the establishment of a committee on local government funding that would meet between sessions to keep issues in the spotlight
  • Get people advocated for local public infrastructure funding on the same page
  • Develop ground up support for infrastructure needs

Read the Montana Standard Article by Mike Smith