© 2024 University of Missouri - KBIA
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Columbia's Stormwater Utility Struggles With Lack of Resources


The City of Columbia’s Stormwater Utility reported challenges keeping up with its work at the Mayor’s Task Force on Infrastructure meeting Tuesday.

During her presentation for the task force, civil engineer Erin Keys said the crew’s biggest challenge is not having enough resources to replace or maintain failing infrastructure.

The crew maintains stormwater infrastructure, which includes 160 miles of pipes stretching from Columbia to Springfield, Missouri.

Keys said several of these pipes are rusted and failing. She said they cause sinkholes to form in yards, streets and sidewalks.

“When five things fail immediately after a rain event, all we can do is patch those up as best we can and then get to them one at a time as time allows,” Keys said. “We’d like to get ahead of that so things aren’t failing at such a great rate.”

She also said people sometimes cause further damage by throwing grass clipping and tree branches into culverts behind their houses. The stormwater crew then has to clean and perform extra maintenance work on the culverts.

Task force member Chris Kelly said the public needs to understand how they contribute to failing infrastructure.

“I think it’s important that people have that perspective of this isn’t some huge, big bureaucratic rigamoral,” Kelly said. “This is guys down in the pipe cleaning it out.” 

Columbia’s Stormwater Utility manages flooding, erosion and pollution in addition to keeping up with maintenance projects.

Keys said the crew is stretched too thin, and a lack of funds is also a major issue.

Voters did approve a stormwater rate increase this April. But it has been more than 20 years since these rates were raised. Keys said the additional revenue still won’t be enough to get them out of crisis mode.