Water Infrastructure Needs In North Carolina

The most current assessments of water infrastructure needs in North Carolina are the two needs surveys conducted by EPA for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) and the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF).  The most recently published surveys list the needs for North Carolina as $5.2 billion for clean water needs such as wastewater treatment systems and sanitary sewers and just over $10 billion for drinking water needs. The following points should be considered when reading survey results:

  • The surveys are conducted every four years and cover the 20-year period after the survey.  However, the surveys may not represent all of the needs of a municipality related to water infrastructure over the next 20 years.
  • The purpose of both surveys is to document needs that are eligible under the state revolving fund programs – not necessarily all water infrastructure needs.  For example, dams for water supply reservoirs are not an eligible project under the DWSRF program and are not included in the survey, but that type of project may represent a significant water infrastructure capital need for a given utility. 
  • Needs that are included in the survey must also meet EPA‘s documentation requirements.  A typical method of documentation for needs is through inclusion in a Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) adopted by a municipality.  However:
    • Most CIPs do not cover the 20-year period represented in the survey, and those that do may not be accurate after the first five-to-ten years.  Most CIPs seen by the Division of Water Infrastructure cover five-to-ten years. 
    • Most larger systems have CIPs while many smaller ones do not have or have limited CIPs.
    • Many municipalities have not fully assessed their water infrastructure and, therefore, may not fully understand their needs (i.e., hidden needs not on a CIP). 

“While this Report might capture needs over a period of up to 20 years, nearly all needs it includes are for projects that will be completed within 5 years (i.e., 2012–2017).”  2012 Clean Watersheds Needs Survey

  • In the Clean Watersheds Needs Survey (CWNS), stormwater projects are eligible, but those projects are not well-defined in most areas statewide and across the country. As a result, the survey may not provide an accurate assessment.  Per the 2012 CWNS, “[n]eeds in this category remain underreported.” 
  • In the Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs Survey and Assessment, not all systems are surveyed; however, EPA applies a sampling of small systems to all small systems.  EPA also allows estimation of rehabilitation needs.  This may result in a better assessment for drinking water needs versus clean water needs.


For more information, the EPA water infrastructure needs surveys, which have individual state needs listed as well as cumulative totals, can be obtained at: