Study Estimates $13 to $15 billion Boost to U.S. Economy through Water Efficiency

New AWE analysis measured economic benefits, job creation of investments in water conservation and efficiency

2017-12-14

A direct investment of $10 billion in water efficiency programs could boost U.S GDP by $13 to $15 billion and create 120,000 to 260,000 jobs, all while saving between 6.5 and 10 trillion gallons of water, according to a new analysis by the Alliance for Water efficiency.

The report, “Transforming Water: Water Efficiency as Infrastructure Investment,” indicated that economic benefits would be broadly distributed through the national economy, boosting job creation in at least twenty industry sectors. For a range of water efficiency programs costing an average of $1,200 per million gallons, cumulative savings of 8.3 trillion gallons of water, or 2.3 billion gallons per day could be achieved.

Americans want Congress and the Trump Administration to prioritize infrastructure investments over any other issue, according to a recent poll commissioned by the Value of Water coalition. Sixty-seven percent of respondents said it should be an extremely or very important focus, and 82 percent supported investment in water infrastructure to ensure a safe, reliable supply of drinking water for all communities.

“Investing in infrastructure shouldn’t focus only on conventional and costly capital projects to expand grey infrastructure like treatment plants and reservoirs. Our analysis proves that lower-cost efficiency programs produce strong economic benefits and should be prioritized by policymakers,” said Mary Ann Dickinson, President and CEO of the Alliance for Water Efficiency. “In addition, unlike many traditional public infrastructure investments, water efficiency programs can be deployed in short time frames and can be readily scaled and adapted.”

The analysis used an input-output model of the U.S. economy to evaluate the near-term economic benefits of large-scale investments in water efficiency programs. It included investments in various water efficiency investments, including indoor and outdoor water use efficiency improvements, commercial, industrial, and institutional efficiency improvements, and water utility system efficiency improvements. Program specifications and cost estimates were based on actual efficiency programs developed for U.S. municipal water utilities.

Additional Benefits Make Water Efficiency “No-Regret” Strategies  

The paper also highlighted important qualitative benefits of investments in water efficiency. Notably, water efficiency programs can: 

  • Empower water customers to control their water bills and reduce their costs
  • Reinforce the position of U.S. manufacturers as leaders in technology innovation
  • Help distressed and low-income communities where water infrastructure has not been adequately maintained
  • Connect directly to communities and involve citizens 
  • Help reduce long-term political conflicts over water resources 
  • Reduce the use of energy needed to operate water systems; resulting in an increase in national energy independence

“Together with the clear economic benefits we’ve identified, these qualitative gains that water efficiency programs are no-regret investments in our nation’s future,” said Dickinson. “All communities, regardless of immediate water scarcity issues, should prioritize water efficiency as a public investment.” 

The report and a related Fact Sheet can be accessed at www.allianceforwaterefficiency.org.

About the Alliance for Water Efficiency:
The Alliance for Water Efficiency is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the efficient and sustainable use of water in the United States and Canada. Headquartered in Chicago, the Alliance works with more than 400 water utilities, water conservation professionals in business and industry, planners, regulators, and consumers. AWE delivers innovative tools and training to encourage cost-effective water conservation programs, conducts cutting-edge research, and pursues programs and policies necessary for a sustainable water future. In 2014 the Alliance won the U.S. Water Prize in the non-profit category for its work. 

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