When I left school, I thought I was done with report cards. No matter how hard I worked, no matter how well I felt I’d done, I was always wracked by anxiety in the days before I received my grades. Good riddance, I thought when I graduated. But now, years later, I’m actually pleased to have another report card in my life—the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Infrastructure Report Card.
A couple of weeks ago, the ASCE announced it would include stormwater infrastructure on the 2021 Infrastructure Report Card. The Report Card, which is released every four years, evaluates and grades American infrastructure in a simple A to F school report card format. The most recent Report Card, released in 2017, “examines current infrastructure conditions and needs, assigns grades, and makes recommendations for how to improve 16 categories of infrastructure,” the ASCE Infrastructure Report Card website says. Water-related categories in 2017 included dams, ports, drinking water, and inland waterways, but 2021 will mark the first issuance of a national stormwater grade.
State report cards have periodically included stormwater infrastructure, but the inclusion of stormwater infrastructure on the national Report Card acknowledges the important role stormwater management plays across the country in reducing flooding, mitigating runoff pollution, and preventing erosion. The National Municipal Stormwater Alliance (NMSA) Chair, Scott Taylor, said in the ASCE press release announcing the addition, “Stormwater infrastructure protects our communities from flooding and our waterways from pollution. Grading the nation's stormwater infrastructure increases its visibility and helps communities get the resources needed to improve their stormwater programs. We applaud ASCE's foresight in making this important addition to the Infrastructure Report Card.”
With more frequent and intense flood and storm events (see: the flooding in the Midwest this year) as well as increased drought (see: the seven-year California drought that just ended), effective stormwater management is becoming increasingly important across the country. By including stormwater with other categories of American infrastructure such as bridges, roads, and waste systems, the ASCE Report Card will help policymakers to more accurately evaluate the role and impact of stormwater management across the US.
The ASCE Report Card grades all infrastructure on a set of key criteria:
Capacity: Does the infrastructure’s capacity meet current and future demands?
Condition: What is the infrastructure’s existing and near-future physical condition?
Funding: What is the current level of funding from all levels of government for the infrastructure category as compared to the estimated funding need?
Future Need: What is the cost to improve the infrastructure? Will future funding prospects address the need?
Operation and Maintenance: What is the owners’ ability to operate and maintain the infrastructure properly? Is the infrastructure in compliance with government regulations?
Public Safety: To what extent is the public’s safety jeopardized by the condition of the infrastructure and what could be the consequences of failure?
Resilience: What is the infrastructure system’s capability to prevent or protect against significant multi-hazard threats and incidents? How able is it to quickly recover and reconstitute critical services with minimum consequences for public safety and health, the economy, and national security?
Innovation: What new and innovative techniques, materials, technologies, and delivery methods are being implemented to improve the infrastructure?
You can read more about the criteria and grading scale on the Infrastructure Report Card website.
What are your thoughts on the inclusion of stormwater on the ASCE report card? On what criteria would you like to see stormwater infrastructure graded? Send your thoughts and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.