How does ASCE define water resources?

America’s water resources infrastructure is made up of a system of dams, inland waterways, and levees, which are crucial to our economy, public safety, and the preservation of the environment.

Present in all 50 states, dams serve a wide range of needs, such as water storage, irrigation, hydropower, and flood control. Inland waterways, which function as the U.S. freight network’s “water highway”, are the series of locks, dams, and navigable channels that serve a major role in moving commercial goods. Levees, which are typically in the form of earthen embankments but can also be concrete floodwalls, protect critical infrastructure during floods. In addition to protecting communities, these systems support jobs and facilitate economic activity.

Related ASCE policy statements

Talking points

  1. Many water resources assets have reached the end of their design life. The average age of our dams is 57 years, while the nation’s levees are, on average, 50 years old.
  2. Dams, levees, and inland waterways showed room for improvement on the 2021 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure. Dams and levees received D grades, while inland waterways received a 'D+'.
  3. The Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) is key biennial legislation that ASCE strongly advocates for. As of mid-November, a final WRDA agreement still needs to be reached.
  4. Congressional action will be needed for the National Dam Safety Program reauthorization. The National Dam Safety Program is a small but vital program that enables states to improve their dam safety programs. The program provides training, technical assistance, research funding, public awareness, and support to states through incentive grant awards that encourage states to improve their programs. While funds cannot be used to repair dams, these targeted funds help advance the national effort to improve dam safety. The National Dam Safety Program will expire on September 30, 2023.

ASCE advocacy highlights

ASCE staff contact: Eleanor Lamb - Senior Manager, Government Relations