What to Do with Our Aging Water Infrastructure

In this era of new technologies, our aging water infrastructure and wastewater treatment are both emerging challenges in the United States- and of all society’s infrastructures, water is the most crucial and fundamental to life.

Most Americans are able to get the water they need through millions of pipes criss-crossing the U.S. However, current water crises, like the one in Flint, Michigan, have caused Americans to come to terms with and no longer turn a blind eye to our nation’s aging water infrastructure. 

Our massive water systems have been in use for more than a 100 years, and more than one million miles are near the end of their useful life and need to be replaced.

Every year, there are 240,000 water main breaks and 850 billion gallons of treated waster water flow into rivers and lakes due to inadequate sewage systems.

The public water infrastructure is so vast and expensive to maintain that it compromises many different services and utilities, and in recent decades, urban areas have experienced an unprecedented growth, requiring larger pipe networks to provide water service.

According to the American Water Works Association (AWWA) study, “Buried No Longer: Confronting America’s Water Infrastructure Challenge,” the restoration and expansion of the existing water system will cost at least $1 trillion over the next 25 years if the country continues its current levels of water service.

One trillion dollars may seem like a lot of money, but the consequences of not taking action now could double to more than $2 trillion, imposing costs on households and businesses and affecting the productivity and competitiveness of industries, along with the well being of households.

However, if action is taken now, the country would have time to plan and implement policies, since the $1 trillion could be spread out over the next 20 years.

In addition to the investment in municipal infrastructure, communities and the country should take advantage of today’s technology and conservation efforts to address a portion of the supply problem. Costs would inevitably rise, and not only citizens, but also industries should ensure the longevity of water infrastructure.

In the City of Los Angeles, local government bodies and commercial building owners can upgrade their facilities to water efficient restrooms by using waterless and hybrid urinals.  These technologies not only help reduce our burden on infrastructure by using little to no water, but also help by reducing the amount of sewage run off as well.

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