Boston: Water Facts

Improvements to Boston‚ Aging System. The water system was built in 1884, and many water line mains are more than a century old. But the city has made great strides to improve the system.

•    Less Water Lost. Boston delivers less water daily than was lost in unbilled water three decades ago. 70 percent reduction in unbilled water since 1980

•    Cost effective practices. Reduced operating costs 19 percent against inflation over the last decade

•    Water Line Repair and Replacement.  The city is relining 17 miles a year of water mains and pipelines to rehabilitate every pipe more than 100 years old by 2010
–    1.3 miles a year of deteriorated or collapsed sewers and storm drains are replaced

Infrastructure Needs. Boston‚ water systems need more than a billion dollars worth of improvements in the next five years.

•    Boston Water & Sewer Commission. $183 million from 2008 to 2010
–    $95 million for the water distribution system, $82 million for the sewers

•    Massachusetts Water Resources Authority. The authority provides Boston, its largest customer, with water and wastewater treatment services. It has a $1.3 billion capital improvement program from 2008 to 2013 
–    $734 million on wastewater system improvements, including 25 projects to reduce sewage overflows as federally mandated
–    $493 million on waterworks improvements, including pipe replacement and repair
–    80 percent of the projects have been mandated by state or federal regulations

•    Inadequate State Support. In 1994, after public outcry against rising water and sewer rates, the commonwealth legislature created a debt service assistance program to offset 20 percent of the debt service for wastewater projects.
–    Over the years, MWRA got an average 80 percent of the funding.
–    Eliminated in 2003 because of the state fiscal crisis, reduced MWRA revenue by 10%
–    Restored in 2004, but still inadequate. Funding levels fell from $60 million in 2002 to $15 million proposed for 2009

•    Boston‚ Water and Sewer Rates. With great needs and diminishing state and federal assistance, rates will have to increase
–    $965 average annual water and sewer bill in 2007, a 9.5 percent jump from 2006
–    But the city offers a 25 percent discount on water bills to assist the elderly and disabled residents and 8 of the last 12 years saw no rate increase

Water Quality.

•    Sewage Overflows. Although Boston is nearing the completion of its federally mandated combined sewer overflow remediation program, problems still arise.
–    33 damage claims filed by South Boston and Dorchester residents in July 2008, for thousands of dollars of damage after stormwater overloaded the sewers and raw sew-age poured from toilets and drains

•    High Drinking Water Quality. The water violates no state or federal regulations
–    No pharmaceuticals detected (tested for 31 commonly found compounds)

•    Harbor Cleanup. Once known as the filthiest harbor in the nation is now much cleaner
–    City spent $4.5 billion cleaning up Boston‚ beaches.

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