Washington, D.C. Civil Engineers Give the District’s Infrastructure a “C” Grade

The National Capital Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) released the 2021 Report Card for Washington D.C.’s Infrastructure. D.C.-area civil engineers gave eight categories of infrastructure an overall grade of a ‘C,’ meaning the state’s infrastructure is in mediocre condition. D.C. has implemented innovative strategies to modernize its energy and wastewater infrastructure to ensure reliable service to District residents, but the city’s levees and transit network are not prepared to meet future needs.

“The capital’s infrastructure systems are getting closer to where we want them to be” said Ranjit Sahai, P.E., ASCE’s D.C. Report Card Committee Chair. “We have seen encouraging trends since the 2016 report was issued when the grade was a ‘C-‘, but D.C. must continue to explore all solutions to improve the grades if we are to accommodate a growing population and economy in the future.”

D.C.’s energy (C+) and wastewater (B-) infrastructure have seen significant investment and innovative practices in recent years. D.C. has provided incentives to encourage more generation in the city from rooftop solar resources. The D.C. energy sector also landed the Power Line Undergrounding (PLUG) project in 2012, a multi-year initiative to bury distribution lines to protect them from storms. This ongoing $500 million project between the city and Pepco will increase resilience by 95%. 

The District’s Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant serve more than 2 million people between D.C. and the surrounding areas through nearly 2,000 miles of pipes. Blue Plains has the capacity to treat more than 380 million gallons of wastewater per day, and treated an average of 292 million gallons of wastewater per day in 2020.  Combined sewer overflows (CSOs) caused by excess stormwater causes the sewage to mix into local waterways. To combat this, D.C.’s landmark Clean Rivers Project was put in place to capture the combined sewage. To date, the project has captured more than 10 billion gallons of combined sewage and 4,500 tons of trash, diverting them from the river to instead be treated. A new enhanced clarification facility can treat 225 million gallons of flow during wet weather events.  The planned new tunnel on the Potomac and Green Infrastructure will further reduce CSOs.

“The progress we have made since ASCE last graded DC’s water and wastewater infrastructure is the direct result of the investments our ratepayers have made in our systems, particularly the Clean Rivers Project,” said DC Water Chief Executive Officer and General Manager David L. Gadis. “We need to keep that momentum going to upgrade water and sewer pipes and we need the Federal Government to partner with us on this effort so we don’t add to the burden on our customers.”  

The Report Card was created as a public service to citizens and policymakers to inform them of the infrastructure needs in their state. Civil engineers used their expertise and school report card-style letter grades to condense complicated data into an easy-to-understand analysis of D.C.’s infrastructure network. ASCE State and Regional Infrastructure Report Cards are modeled after the national Infrastructure Report Card, which gave America’s infrastructure an overall grade of ‘C-’ in 2021.  

To view the full report card and all eight categories, visit https://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/state-item/district-of-columbia/.  


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