LITTLE FALLS, Minn. — Minnesota doesn’t have enough funding to update all of its aging underground infrastructure, as water and sewer pipes reach the end of their expected life spans in many areas across the state.
About $11 billion will be needed over the next two decades to cover drinking water and wastewater improvements, according to state officials, Minnesota Public Radio reported .
“I think we are on the verge of what could be a crisis,” said Elizabeth Wefel, a lobbyist for the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities. “When you start seeing all of these facilities across the state starting to hit a certain age, and the funding isn’t keeping up to help rehabilitate or build new, we are going to be facing a crisis.”
She said deteriorating pipes don’t get as much attention or funding as damaged roads or bridges because they’re not as visible.
“Until you have something like a sinkhole, you don’t see the pipes falling apart,” Wefel said.
Many Minnesota towns have water treatment plants that are 30 or 40 years old, and pipes that date back to the Great Depression, said Jeff Freeman, executive director of the Minnesota Public Facilities Authority.
Small cities have a particularly difficult time dealing with the costs of replacing aging infrastructure, Freeman said.
“Ultimately, it comes to the residents to pay those costs,” he said. “And that’s why smaller cities in particular have difficulty because they just don’t have the user base to spread the costs over that bigger cities have.”
Freeman said his agency gives out about $150 million to $200 million a year in low-interest loans, which is enough to cover about 30 to 40 projects.