March 2023 Vol. 78 No. 3

Editor's Log

Editor’s Log: Eyes Forward

Robert Carpenter | Editor-in-Chief 

(UI) — Recently, Underground Infrastructure magazine published its 26th Annual Municipal Sewer/Water Infrastructure Forecast & Market Analysis. Hard to believe I’m still authoring this research after all these years. Nonetheless, I still find the data both predictable and surprising at the same time. 

The information remains predictable because finances, unfortunately, continues to be a constant for all cities. Underfunding of our cities’ sewer and water systems remains the ultimate challenge even after more than 100 years, or in some cases, much longer. It seems like city leaders all the way back to the 18th century believed that collection systems, once installed, would function untouched by human hands for countless decades. By the time neglect had hit critical levels, it was somebody else’s problem. The strategy, to some degree or another, is still applied today. 

The data remains surprising on a regular basis due to another constant that is frequently ignored – the absolute necessity to reinvest in sewer and water systems to maintain quality of life for our citizens, yet an almost-complete absence of adequate awareness or support. Fortunately, this year was different. 

Hygienic sciences advanced and booming populations exposed inadequate and toxic sewer systems as the world grew up. America, much like the rest of the world, discovered the overwhelming need to maintain sewer collection systems and treatment plants if cities were to grow and the populace was going to advance out of third-world levels. 

Drinking water took a major step forward in the mid-1890s, when the value and effectiveness of chlorinating water to combat typhoid and other diseases was documented. The first use of chlorine in the U.S. took place in 1908 in New Jersey. Still, as the process spread rapidly across the country, the essential need to maintain both sewer and potable water piping systems always seems to take a back door to other public spending projects. 

It has taken many years of hard work and lobbying by various sewer and water organizations to draw attention to this critical issue for the health of a nation. It was unfortunate that the Flint, Mich., lead pipe fiasco added deadly shock value to the public awareness campaigns. Still, the crisis finally registered with both the public and politicians. Thus, the Infrastructure Bill was passed and added substantial dollars to the national investment in sewer, water and stormwater infrastructure. 

Billions were awarded and ceremoniously announced through 2022 for many areas of the country. However, for many of those proposed projects, it has taken much of the past year to launch, as adequate planning and sufficient engineering takes time. 

The survey revealed that though money was in hand (for a change), much of the work didn’t actually begin until the fourth quarter of 2022 and is now going strong in the first quarter of 2023. 

One hiccup from the federal funding superstore, at least for some of the small municipality respondents, is that it is more difficult for them to navigate the paperwork and red tape, and be viewed equally with large cities when it comes to disbursing funds. 

Complained one small city respondent for the Southeast, “We don’t have a large staff with a specialist in filling out government application forms. The consulting engineers aren’t as interested in spending their time helping us get some of this funding because our budgets will be lower.” 

Still, the market and funding for sewer, water and stormwater hasn’t been this good in decades and should maintain this pace at least through 2026. Now if we could just get more workers … 

UCT 2024 

The Underground Construction Technology (UCT) Show recently announced big news for 2024. Due to a variety of conflicts, the show was able to move from its traditional January date to March 19–21. That later date allows the show to partner with a new, booming location in Oklahoma City. 

If you haven’t visited downtown OKC, you’ll be shocked – I was. The city opened a new convention center in late 2021, struggling through COVID protocols and problems to completion. At the exact same time, two new hotels, the Omni and Marriott Fairfield Inn, were also under construction. These hotels are literally less than 50 yards from the convention center. 

RELATED: Winners of the Underground Construction Awards Honored at UCT

Construction of all these facilities at the same time would task any city but when COVID, supply chains and worker shortages were added to the mix, it made for a mighty effort. The city pulled it off and now has a first-class convention center/hotel mix to match the many other amenities OKC has been building for many years, all accessible by a continuously running trolley: Bricktown, Automobile Alley, Scissortail Park, Mid-Town and so much more. 

Great facility, wonderful hotels, never a shortage of exciting activities and the weather should be beautiful that time of year. Details will follow, but suffice to say with the involvement and support of leading organizations, UCT ‘24 will be one to remember so mark your calendars for March 19–21, 2024.

Related Articles

From Archive


{{ error }}
{{ comment.comment.Name }} • {{ comment.timeAgo }}
{{ comment.comment.Text }}