Aging Water SystemsJune 2, 2011 No Comments
Rebuilding Our Aging Water Systems with Green Infrastructure
We are facing an extreme problem as a nation. Our water infrastructure systems are deteriorating as we speak. Many of the water and sewer systems are outdated and terribly worn due to the aging infrastructures. Bob Herbert recently described in a New York Time’s editorial how our country is in dire need for drastic water infrastructure improvements. Herbert identifies the problem but fails to mention a solution. Some one needs to come up with a solution that is environmentally friendly, cost effective and able to withstand the elements it is currently exposed to. This is no easy task.
If you had a leak in your home or current residence you would most likely call a service man and have it fixed immediately. You would need it fixed immediately to prevent any further damage and property depreciation. Why are we not taking the same approach when it comes to our water infrastructures? Many people take the availability of a fresh water supply for granted. Studies have shown that over decades of neglect our fresh water supply isn’t so fresh. I would question the quality of the water out of any faucet, in any kitchen, throughout the United States. I urge us as a nation to apply some much-needed attention to this matter.
Water is such a scarce resource as it is. Are you aware of how much water we are loosing on a daily basis due to leaks in our infrastructure? Over 6 billion gallons of water per day are being lost. That is enough to supply the 10 largest cities in our nation with water for the day. That is simply outrageous! Not only are we wasting a precious resource but also this has a trickle effect of wasted electricity and extra unnecessary CO2 emissions. This is very bad for the environment. In a day and age where we are constantly talking about green energy and improving our environment it seems we are turning our attention in the wrong direction. This is a very serious problem and desperately needs to be addressed.
Many counties and cities have demanded a decrease in water usage by up to 20%. How is this possible when the current infrastructures waste so much water? This results in a higher water charge for the amounts that rise over the decrease demands. Is this really fare to the consumer and does this solve the problem? The answer is plain and simple, no.
There are so many benefits to fixing our infrastructure problems. Not only would we not waste billions of gallons of a precious resource there would be many economical advantages as well. The repairs would cause long-term economic growth, which is definitely needed in this economy. Herbert expresses:
Improving water systems — and infrastructure generally, if properly done — would go a long way toward improving the nation’s dismal economic outlook. According to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, every dollar invested in water and sewer improvements has the potential to increase the long-term gross domestic product by more than six dollars. Hundreds of thousands of jobs would be created if the nation were serious about repairing and upgrading water mains, crumbling pipes, water treatment plants, dams, levees and so on.
We all can easily agree that these repairs are necessary but that doesn’t solve the problem of a lack of federal funds. Without the financial resources the improvements simply will not be done.
New York City Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner, Cas Holloway, responded to Herbert’s article in a letter to the editor  in which he wrote:
Bob Herbert’s analogy of fixing a leak before it gets worse and more expensive is right on target. In New York City, we are doing just that — and on a large scale.
For instance, the city has two water tunnels that are both more than 70 years old. Construction on a third tunnel began in 1970, but city funding ebbed and flowed with the economic and political times. However, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has invested more money in the tunnel than the previous five mayors combined — and it is now nearing completion.
Despite a strained budget, New York continues making these investments essentially on its own. For example, between 2002 and 2009, only $41 million of the $6.3 billion that the city invested in protecting harbor water quality came from federal grants — a tiny 0.65 percent.
That trend has to be reversed if we are serious about fixing the problem. Protecting our water supplies and cleaning our environment are national priorities, so it is critical that the federal government restore its commitment as a funding partner.
In another response letter to Herbert’s article, David LaFrance, the Executive Director of American Water Works Association, acknowledges the lack of water infrastructure funding and proposes an excellent financial solution. As LaFrance wrote:
While the problem is well documented, it’s time to move toward viable solutions. The American Water Works Association conducted a study of water infrastructure finance solutions and strongly recommends the creation of a federal water infrastructure bank.
The bank would provide low-cost loans to communities with critical water infrastructure needs. These loans would dramatically reduce the cost of repairs for cities and consumers, encourage immediate action on water projects and even spur job creation.
The bank is a great idea. I think it should be pretty clear that ignoring the problem for centuries past has not served us well. Action must be taken immediately to put an end to this ongoing predicament.