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Infrastructure plan presents opportunity to turn the faucet on for enhancing water quality, access

Man filling up bucket of water next to a bridge

A former West Virginia University student conducts water research at a local stream. A pair of WVU scientists say a proposed federal infrastructure plan can help enhance water quality and access across the nation. (WVU Photo)

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As a sweeping federal infrastructure plan looks to tap into enhancing the nation’s water systems - from drinking water to wastewater to water reclamation projects, West Virginia University scientists agree that access and quality remain a most pressing need for rural communities. 

Water researchers Emily Garner and Jason Hubbart said aging infrastructure, such as leaking and damaged pipes, require the utmost attention for all communities across the United States. 


“Access to high-quality drinking water and adequate resources to treat wastewater are critical for community health and economic prosperity, especially in rural communities. Much of the buried water and wastewater infrastructure in the U.S. is currently in service well beyond its intended life span, and extensive replacement and rehabilitation of this infrastructure is needed. 

“Aging water infrastructure is often characterized by leaking pipes and high rates of loss of the treated water traveling through drinking water distribution systems. Significant investment is needed to support maintenance of these systems and to extend access to communities that currently lack water and wastewater services.

“Rural communities are particularly vulnerable to challenges in maintaining water and wastewater infrastructure given that they often serve populations spread over large service areas and in Appalachia, where rugged topography presents challenges for locating leaks, conducting maintenance and installing new pipes. 

“There is also a pressing need to invest in our nation’s water workforce, as many of our water professionals are expected to retire in the coming decade, often taking years of institutional knowledge about local water systems with them. Programs and resources to recruit, train, and retain the next generation of water professionals are critically needed.” – Emily Garner, Assistant Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, West Virginia University.

“As members of the WVU Bridge Initiative, we’ve identified a number of needs for water infrastructure including, but not limited to:

  • Enhancing / initiating water-related economic development activities (intra- and inter-state),

  • economic development around recreation,

  • economic support of infrastructure towards pollutant-free surface water,

  • economic support of clean drinking water, sanitation and hygiene,

  • planning to mitigate future flooding,

  • economic investment in municipal waterway infrastructure (drinking water, waste waters, etc.) and treatment facilities.” – Jason Hubbart, Professor and Director of Institute for Water Security and Science, Professor of Hydrology and Water Quality, Davis College of Agriculture, Resources and Natural Design, West Virginia University. 

Additional Resources:

Garner Research Lab of Environmental Engineering & Applied Microbiology

It’s in the water: WVU scientists turning No. 2 into a No. 1 predictor of COVID-19 infections

WVU Institute of Water Security and Science 

WVU receives grant to pilot drinking water testing program

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WVU holds leadership role in advancement of water quality and agriculture in West Virginia and beyond

WVU Institute of Water Security and Science to develop first comprehensive regulatory guidance for state wetland water quality standards

West Virginia University experts can provide commentary, insights and opinions on various news topics. Search for an expert by name, title, area of expertise, or college/school/department in the Experts Database at WVU Today.



CONTACT: Jake Stump
WVU Research Communications

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