Environment — 05 July 2013

576px-Dripping_faucet_1By Ed Coghlan

Here’s what most Americans think about water:

“I turn on the tap and it comes out.”

And most of the time, that’s true.

Yet in many parts of the country, the aging water infrastructure is a growing concern. It leaks, it’s been neglected and it’s really, really old.

Here’s a list of cities and their challenges with water leaks.

Recently, a division of Mueller (NYSE:MWA) introduced a new product designed to help reduce the risk of water leaks. They call in the Fixed Leak Detection Solution.

“Transmission main leaks are a major concern for utilities due to the high pressures involved and the potential for soil destabilization that can quickly turn a small leak into a large break,” said Marc Bracken of Echologics, which is a division of Mueller.

The Envirionmental Protection Agency is increasingly concerned about the very health of the nation’s water infrastructure, calling it a “national challenge.” On its website, it speaks of the nature of the problem and what it’s doing to address it.

The EPA says the reason for the pressure on our water infrastructure isn’t just the fact that it’s aging. There are increasing demands for clean water sources, changing land use practice, climate change and population growth.

But it has to be fixed. Water is the underpinning for our health, our economy, and our ecology.

How bad is it?  Earlier thisyear, Bloomberg News reported that the U.S. drinking water and sewage infrastructure earned a barely passing grade of “D” from the American Society of Civil Engineers, which said at least $1 trillion is needed to fix the problem.

Financially strapped cities and utilities, who are increasingly concerned about ratepayers’ reactions to more spending, are finding that fixing the problem isn’t easy and isn’t cheap.

The effects of weather in particular, are a problem. When Superstorm Sandy hit the East Coast last fall, it revealed the inadequacies of some water systems. New York State alone released over $22 million so New York City could more quickly repair wastewater  treatment facilities damaged during the storm.

Before 2010, the District of Columbia’s Water and Sewer Authority only allocated enough funds to replace one-third of 1 percent of its water and sewer infrastructure in a given year. That figure is now 1 percent. While the authority is able to plug more leaks and upgrade more of the system, a backlog of projects means it has to play catch up after years of neglect,

Is this just a problem for policy wonks to wring their hands over?

Not according to Columbia University, which recently issued a report that said New York City, Washington D.C. and Los Angeles are all urban areas at risk for water shortages.

We don’t think about it much, water because we’ve always had it. But unless we start to solve the problem of our aging infrastructure and overall water supply, we may start turning on the tap and wondering if water will come out.

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About Author

Ed Coghlan

Ed is a former television news director at KCOP in Los Angeles and the Montana Television Network. He writes on health, economic and public affairs issues.

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