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Water has no substitute: Why a healthy economy depends on its security

CH2Mer Alex Shannon discusses the importance of securing critical water infrastructure from potential threats on the U.S. economy.

As the global demand for water escalates, so does the need to safeguard reliable water sources. Securing critical water infrastructure from potential threats is essential in meeting these needs.

In the United States, it’s often assumed that our water will be accessible and high-quality. As seen in Flint, Michigan though – when this assumption isn’t delivered, the impacts are catastrophic.

Adding to the issue of aging infrastructure, the threat of terrorism remains a significant risk in the post-9/11 era. The possibility of an attack on U.S. water infrastructure directly influences government and private spending decisions, consumer costs and confidence.

Consumer confidence is an economic measurement that gauges how consumers feel about the overall health of the economy and how future expectations will impact their personal finances. Actively securing infrastructure against the risks of an attack strengthens U.S. economic growth by increasing consumer confidence and positively influencing how people spend and invest.

Dams are one such piece of water infrastructure requiring protection from vulnerability. According to the Department of Homeland Security, roughly 100,000 dams throughout the U.S. provide 10 percent of irrigation to all U.S. cropland and 6.7 percent of all electricity.

In the Pacific Northwest, where there’s an abundance of hydropower dams, the electricity percentage jumps to 60 percent, and serves an estimated 2.6 million people.

Many of today’s top-names in technology, such as Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook and Google, maintain facilities in the Pacific Northwest. An interruption to power generation there could have a globally catastrophic impact, forcing decreased labor needs, lower wages and goods supply shortages.

The U.S. is actively protecting its infrastructure to maintain stable water supply. To understand how to optimize this, it’s essential to understand the impacts of securing dam infrastructure to bolster confidence in water, and the risks of not doing so. By understanding the potential costs, we can effectively target the areas that need the most investment.

In the Economics of Dam Security Post 9/11 and The Threat to Consumer Confidence report, we explore the broader economic impact of an attack on critical dam infrastructure and on consumers, and the effects of risk mitigation on the nation’s confidence in our water supply.

A comprehensive analysis of water security, and how economic modeling can help measure water’s impact on consumer confidence, this report presents a strong argument for our federal agencies to keep assets functional, safe and secure.

As one of the most basic human resources, water truly has no substitute. As more communities across the nation shift their focus toward resilient infrastructure, understanding how economic modeling fits into planning and investment decisions is crucial – not just for our own vitality, but for a strong, stable economy for the future.

Bringing a creative and analytical approach to complex scenarios, CH2Mer Alex Shannon focuses on working with our clients, primarily in our water market, to improve their strategic planning and business performance. A consultant on our economic modeling and analytics efforts, he approaches each issue with an economic mindset, encouraging our clients to operate in a way that maximizes efficiency and benefits community needs, while minimizing costs.

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