In early November, we asked readers if their 2007 operational and capital budgets would be up, down, or flat compared to 2006. Then we divided the nation into five regions and compared budget expectations.

To see if infrastructure budgets track regional population trends, we also compared our survey results to U.S. Census Bureau data from 1990 through 2004.

As you'll see, the percentage of readers who report bigger budgets increases as you move across the nation from west to east. Source: PUBLIC WORKS 2007 forecast survey

IN THE WEST

Budget trend: Largest increase in capital expenditures.

Demographic trend: Though the pace has slowed, Nevada remains the fastest-growing state; Idaho is No. 4. California, Alaska, and Hawaii have been losing population since 1990.

No. 1 challenge: Streets, roads, bridges.

Why: Material and supply costs; keeping up with the needs of a growing population.

Helpful hint: “In 2006, we finished installing a comprehensive SCADA system for our water-distribution and waste-water-collection systems, replacing old or non-existent telemetry systems. With laptop access for monitoring alarms, we're saving many hours of field time for site visits and troubleshooting. We've also installed laptops in many service trucks to make viewing utility maps possible in the field. No more paper-shuffling and copying. This has resulted in significant efficiencies for our crews.” — Nancy J.T. Kraushaar, city engineer/public works director, Oregon City, Ore.

IN THE SOUTHWEST

Budget trend: Largest increase in operations budgets.

Demographic trend: Arizona is the nation's second-fastest-growing state.