Water Infrastructure Crisis Threatens Public Health

May 12, 2000
The American Water Works Association (AWWA) urged consumers to support efforts to finance the nation's $1 trillion water infrastructure crisis. AWWA made its recommendation during the ongoing national discussion of challenges facing drinking water providers being held as part of the celebration of National Drinking Water Week.

"Our national water infrastructure is critical to the U.S. economy, our standard of living and our public health," AWWA Executive Director Jack Hoffbuhr said. "We jeopardize all of those if we continue to ignore the systemic degradation of our water infrastructure."

The water infrastructure crisis is largely a product of history. Much of the nation's current water infrastructure was built in the immediate aftermath of World War II and is now more than 50 years old. While regular utility maintenance has kept the infrastructure performing well, normal wear and tear has begun to take its toll nationwide. As the old pipe continues to degrade utilities in many areas will have to begin focusing on replacing old pipe rather than trying to continually repair it, which requires substantial investment. AWWA estimates that improving the drinking and wastewater infrastructure nationwide could cost up to $1 trillion over the next 20 years. Reports now indicate that infrastructure investment by utilities is falling $23 billion short annually due to expensive treatment and technology upgrades needed to comply with increasing federal regulations. If federal funding is not made available to help combat this shortcoming, the report suggests that water and sewer rates across the country will "more than double."

"Our water infrastructure is four times as large as our Interstate highway system, but because it lies mostly underground, its degradation has been invisible to consumers and the government," Hoffbuhr said. "Without a comprehensive solution to this crisis, consumers will witness its seriousness firsthand as their water rates climb higher."

SOURCE: American Water Works Association

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