The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) released its latest report on the biennial Water Infrastructure Needs Survey (WINS). Communities across the state identified more than 1,050 future wastewater and sewer projects over the next year that will cost $4.99 billion, up from $4.2 billion in 2015. The Metropolitan Council Environmental Services (MCES) and MCES service areas reported a $1 billion increase in need over the 2016 report. In 2016, 53 percent of the need on the survey was in Greater Minnesota. In the newest report, Greater Minnesota represents 40 represent of the need and MCES and its service areas represent 60 percent of the need.
There has been a lot of recent press on aging sewer infrastructure. The report does show that more than half of the statewide need is for sewer system rehabilitation and upgrade, at $3.43 billion. However, when the numbers are broken down by region, a different picture emerges and it becomes clear that in Greater Minnesota updating and upgrading wastewater is as much of a cost-driver as sewer replacement. In the Metropolitan area, sewer system rehabilitation represents 69 percent of their projected costs (approximately $2 billion) and wastewater treatment represents about 25 percent of the projected costs. In Greater Minnesota, sewer system rehabilitation represents 30 percent of projected need ($597.6 million) and secondary and advanced wastewater treatment represents 39 percent of the need ($779.48 million). The numbers demonstrate that for Greater Minnesota the costs for new and upgraded wastewater treatment are as significant as the replacement of aging sewer infrastructure.
The other number that may surprise some observers is that Greater Minnesota identified a higher need for infiltration/inflow infrastructure (9 percent, or $181.55 million) than the Metropolitan area (2 percent, or $65.41 million). The Metropolitan Council has an established infiltration/inflow grant program that has traditionally been funded through the bonding bill. There is not a similar program for Greater Minnesota. Unfortunately, the report does not provide enough detail to determine whether infiltration/inflow projects in Greater Minnesota are receiving state funding from other grant programs.
Regardless of how you spin the report, the growing numbers demonstrate the need for continued investment in Minnesota’s water infrastructure through a robust bonding bill.