By and large, America's water infrastructure is on the cusp of disrepair. Environmentalists and public health officials have been chattering about this for years, but now the problem has become more urgent and the US needs to overhaul much of it in a hurry.
According to David Lepeska, rotting pipes are responsible for floods, illness affecting millions, and trillions of gallons of water lost due to leakage. But logistical issues aside, the cost of such stripping out over half the nation's water pipes, some of which are over a hundred of years old, comes at a great cost. A cost likely to be passed down to residents.
The EPA estimates that adequately upgrading the nation's water infrastructure would cost between $US750 billion and $US1 trillion over the next couple decades. Yet with the protracted recession, neither cities nor the federal government have funds to spare. And because water infrastructure is mainly underground and out of sight, political will in Washington remains low. Only about $US10 billion of the $US787 billion 2009 stimulus package was aimed at water infrastructure. What's more, the federal government's share of water infrastructure spending has plummeted from about 75 per cent to about 3 per cent in the past 35 years, according to Ken Kirk of the National Association of Clean Water Agencies.
Lepeska suggests we need pipes that are smart and equipped with tech that will indicate where the water infrastructure is failing, pointing out systems that have already been implemented in cities such as Dallas and Las Vegas. He also calls for the widespread adoption of repair technology which uses robots which require no excavation of land to complete their tasks.
And increased water rates may sound like a burden, but so would the public health disasters that would ensue if nothing is done at all. [Atlantic Ciies]