Turning on a spigot is something we do several times a day – whether to brush our teeth, wash dishes or cook. It’s not only routine, it’s something we don’t think about.
But what if you turned on a spigot and there was no water? Or perhaps worse, the water was contaminated? You might think that’s a problem only in developing countries, but, as the Flint, Mich., water crisis shows, access to clean drinking water even can impact our fellow Americans.
In a still slowly unfolding crisis, Flint residents learned the water they used to wash, drink and cook was contaminated with lead in January 2016. The crisis began in April 2014, when the city switched its water source to the Flint River, and that water, which hadn’t been treated with an anti-corrosion agent, leached lead from the aging water infrastructure, leading to unsafe lead levels and an outbreak of the bacteria-borne Legionnaire’s Disease.
America has a water infrastructure problem – the American Society of Civil Engineers gave drinking water infrastructure a grade of “D” on this year’s Infrastructure Report Card. Lead water pipes were banned more than 30 years ago, but as many as 10 million remain in service in America’s aging water infrastructure. Flint, for example, has pledged to replace 30,000 such pipes in its own infrastructure.
Flint may be the most famous case, but cities throughout the country have dealt with water contamination, including Washington, D.C.; Durham and Greenville, N.C.; Columbia, S.C.; and Jackson, Miss.
Some water systems are more than 100 years old – Atlanta’s system was designed in 1875 and its water treatment plant was built in 1893. In the District of Columbia, some pipes date back to the Civil War.
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power faces a $1.3 billion bill to replace more than 400 miles of water lines, some of which are 80 years old. In Detroit, 3,400 miles of water lines in the city and suburbs need to be replaced at a cost of $1.2 million per mile. Aging infrastructure loses 6 billion gallons of water each day across the county, equaling 2 trillion gallons a year, according to the American Water Works Association.
Many Americans are one crisis away from being without water – which is why the National League of City Service Line Warranty Program supports the educational efforts of the Value of Water Campaign’s Imagine a Day Without Water. Imagine a Day Without Water is being held today and brings attention to our aging and underfunded national water system.
And the system is underfunded. In 1977, system investment accounted for 63 percent of total water spending. However, in 2014, investment was 9 percent of total spending – one-seventh of what it was 40 years ago, even as much of the national system is at end of its useful life.
American citizens understand the urgency of repairing our national water system – 82 percent agree that water infrastructure needs to be a top priority., [the Service Line Warranty Program or HomeServe] encourages community leaders, elected officials and water utilities to work together to address the desperate need for water infrastructure improvements.
Watch as Justin Steinbugl, SLWP Business Development Specialist, discusses his experience without water following Hurricane Ivan, and Travis Levers, Digital Marketing, discusses water conservation tips to incorporate during shortages.