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.

 

No. 1 challenge: Water, waste-waster, stormwater.

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

Helpful hint: “We're monitoring peak electric demands to minimize demand charges on our electric bill along with reducing horsepower and/or run time on all electric motors. This involves some manual operation and monitoring of systems to maximize energy savings.” — Jerry Jacobson, operations manager, Academy Water & Sanitation District, Colorado Springs, Colo.

IN THE MIDWEST

Budget trend: Fourth-largest increase in operations; last in capital expenditures.

Demographic trend: Only Missouri and Wisconsin have gained population since 1990.

No. 1 challenge: Water, waste-waster, stormwater.

Why: Material and supply costs; board and residents expect more done with less.

Helpful hint: “When we build new two-lane roads, we offset left or right of the center line with as much grading as possible to add the second set of lanes in the future. We call this our ‘Rural to Urban Transition Streets' program. The idea is for the county to incur additional costs the first time the road is graded and paved so we can use their paving for a longer period of time as we expand for capacity reasons—not because the pavement has worn out.” — Tom Shafer, design/ construction section manager, Lincoln, Neb.

IN THE SOUTHEAST

Budget trend: Third-largest increase in both operations and capital budgets.

Demographic trend: Thanks to Florida (and despite continuing population loss in Louisiana), this remains the fastest-growing region of the country.

 

No. 1 challenge: Water, waste-waster, stormwater.

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

Helpful hint: “We've been reducing overtime and increasing staff flexibility by cross-training operators between all of our plants. Our operators are double-certified (water and wastewater) with incentives for getting higher-level licenses.” — Donna Kaluzniak, utility director, Atlantic Beach, Fla.

IN THE EAST

Budget trend: Lowest increase in operations budgets; second-lowest in capital expenditures.

Demographic trend: Though it's been the region of greatest “outmigration” (i.e., residents moving out of state) since at least 1990, Maine, Rhode Island, and Maryland increased in population from 2000 to 2004.

No. 1 challenge: Streets, roads, bridges.

Why: Material and supply costs; board and residents expect more done with less.

Helpful hint: “We're considering having developers who need sewer capacity pay for removing sump pumps and french drains from the sanitary sewer system. Since one sump pump is, on average, the equivalent peak demand of five homes, we'd trade developers one new connection for every sump pump or french drain they disconnect. That puts our sewer system ahead by the equivalent of four houses on each trade, which helps eliminate capacity problems—and the customers don't have to pay for it.” — Dave Hofer, assistant engineer, New Castle County, Del.