Imagine a Day Without Water Infrastructure

October 19, 2022


Water. It keeps us healthy, our cities running, and our economies growing. While 70% of the Earth is water, only 2.5% is freshwater. Of that, only about 1% is currently accessible. The rest is locked in glaciers or trapped underground. Making water a very limited but valuable resource. This makes reliable access to water essential. 

One of the crowning achievements of the 20th century was building reliable water and wastewater systems. However, after a century our water infrastructure is at risk. 

The average age of U.S. water mains is 47 years. But urban areas typically have older pipes. The average age of pipes in Philadelphia is 78 years. About every two minutes, a community experiences a water main break. It’s estimated that 237,600 water mains break every year in the U.S. That’s about six billion gallons of treated water lost each day in the U.S., and enough to fill over 9,000 swimming pools according to the Value of Water Campaign.

In the latest report card from the American Society of Civil Engineers, the U.S. water infrastructure received a D grade.

ASCE Infrastructure Grades

D-   Stormwater

D+   Wastewater

C   Drinking water

We need to invest $4.8 trillion over the next 20 years to keep our water and wastewater systems in a state of good repair. For stormwater, an additional $298 billion is required for maintenance.

A Day Without Water Infrastructure = Crisis

No tap water to brush your teeth. When you flush the toilet, nothing happens. Firefighters have no water to put out fires. No irrigation to feed crops. 

value of water approval of water infrastructure updates

A single nationwide day without water service would put about $43.5 billion of economic activity at risk. A national water service stoppage in just eight days would jeopardize nearly 2 million jobs.

No water is nothing short of a humanitarian, political, and economic crisis.

While unimaginable for most of us, there are communities that have lived without water: man-made tragedies in Flint, Michigan; water scarcity issues in Central California; and wastewater runoff in the Great Lakes. Millions of Americans live in communities that never had the infrastructure to provide safe water service, relying on bottled water and septic systems daily.

The problems that face our drinking water and wastewater systems are multi-faceted. A combination of aging infrastructure and environmental changes creates increased droughts and flooding. Although these regional challenges will require locally-driven solutions, reinvestment in our water must be a national priority.

Reinvestment in Infrastructure = Opportunity

The good news is that the American people are already widely supportive of increased investment in the nation’s water infrastructure. Above any other pressing political issue, Americans name rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure as the issue they most want our elected officials to address. Americans generally view water infrastructure investment as an even greater priority than infrastructure, with 82 percent of voters saying that they view the issue as either important or very important. No other issue facing our public officials enjoys such a broad consensus.

2 million americans do not have safe drinking water graphic

There is no other option. Public officials at the local, state, and national levels must prioritize investment in water. Public-private partnerships will play an important role in building tomorrow’s drinking water and wastewater systems. Innovation will allow us to build modern, energy-efficient, and environmentally advanced systems that will sustain communities for generations to come.

We need to prioritize building stronger water and wastewater systems now, so no community in America has to imagine living a day without water.

Water Services at HR Green

Working to improve the quality of life for individuals is at the heart of everything we do at HR Green. We’re committed to supporting our clients at every phase of their infrastructure projects. Our water professionals work with clients to understand challenges from the client’s perspective and define the right solutions to meet those needs. From potable to industrial and wastewater systems, protecting the interests of the public and our clients is a top priority.

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