Addressing America’s Aging Water Infrastructure

Addressing America’s Aging Water Infrastructure

By Water Street – January 3, 2020 – 107 Comments

Imagine you’re getting yourself and your kids ready to start your day. As usual, you’re in a hurry, so you don’t notice that your kid flushed a wipe down the toilet until the toilet is overflowing onto the floor, making you even later for your morning meeting.

An overflowing toilet is inconvenient, but flushing a wipe won’t lead to an immediate water infrastructure crisis in your home – though it is important to know what to avoid sending down the

drain  to help protect your pipes and property, because repairing water damage can be expensive. The real issue lies further beneath the surface – across the roughly 1.6 million miles of aging water and sewer pipes in the U.S.


In 2017, The American Society of Civil Engineers graded the state of the nation’s infrastructure a D+ and estimated that the need for improvements over the next 25 years could reach $1 trillion dollars. The water pipes and systems that were installed in the mid-1900s have well exceeded their useful life.

The quality of the pipes water flows through is just as important as the quality of the water itself. American Water is dedicated to finding ways to keep clean water flowing through the 1600 communities we serve across the U.S. while also making the necessary replacements and upgrades along the way.

So, water we doing?

We’re putting the cost of poor infrastructure into perspective.

An undertaking as important and necessary as this requires a major shift in our collective mindset and habits as a nation. It is estimated that infrastructure improvements — and funding for them — costs the average American family $9 per day. To put that into perspective, that’s about $270 per month that could go towards other bills, food, clothing, and so much more.

We already invest $1.5 billion each year to maintain the health of our plants and pipes that enable us to provide you with the clean, safe water that you drink and use for all of your activities. But because these systems are of varying age and size and we have pipeline infrastructure totaling nearly 51,000 miles, we are committed to doing even more.

We’re investing in water infrastructure improvements.

American Water has committed to investing more than $8 billion in capital over the next five years to improve the reliability, resiliency, and efficiency of our infrastructure, because we want to ensure that you and your family never have to second-guess whether or not water will flow from your faucet when you turn it on. We are replacing aging pipes at a higher rate than the water utility industry average, hardening our assets to make them more resilient to increasing threats from climate variability, replacing outdated equipment, and investing in technology to make our distribution systems smarter to improve energy efficiency.

We’re helping consumers do their part to protect water infrastructure.

Infrastructure improvements mean that service may temporarily be suspended while we work, which isn’t ideal for anyone. So, to minimize disruption to your home, we coordinate with municipalities to align our upgrades with the timing of their street paving programs, and with other utilities to align with their replacement and renewal projects whenever possible. But, there are ways that you can help minimize service disruption as well, like proactively protecting your pipes and being mindful of how much water you use.

When thinking of other ways you can protect your pipes, you should consider what you are putting down your sink and flushing down your toilet and the direct result that

has on your local infrastructure. Always keep in mind that your pipes may have been installed close to 100 years ago and were not built to withstand the modern products and their demand on the system. We know how hard it can be to change your habits, but having access to safe, clean water for you, your family, and your community is so much more important than flushing a wipe instead of throwing it in the trash. Follow these simple tips so that we can all keep life flowing now, and for generations to come.



  • Silvia says:

    Excellent info!

  • Robert Lickenbrock says:

    Please !!!! Watch what you flush!!

  • Carol McClelland says:

    I appreciate this info

  • NICK says:

    thank you

  • Sheila Denniston says:

    Some of the writing on the diagram is quite small, hard to read.

  • Patricia Bishop says:

    Thank you for the information.

  • Mokraoui says:

    I agree with you

  • Roger Magyar says:

    Are you recommending that we not put toilet paper in the toilet? Where do you suggest we put it?

    • Joseph Szafran says:

      Thanks for reading our blog. The suggestion is too much toilet paper. Every parent knows the impact that putting too much toiler paper down the drain all at once can have.

  • Richard Killeen says:

    Glad you told me about those flushable (NOT!) wipes. I have used them in the past. That stops today!!

  • Mary says:

    Good information

  • Anwar Khan says:

    Nice informations

  • delia velazquez says:

    My family and I do not throw paper nor anything other than what the toilet is there for. We treat papers, etc. as trash in a bag. We always try to educate people who don’t treat toilets with personal respect. Being a homeowner for many years, we know how expensive toilet mishandled can get. It’s a good idea to continue to encourage those who don’t know. Thank you and Good luck.

  • Linda Hill says:

    This is some awesome news. Thank you

  • Nelly A says:

    Very interesting topic. Thanks.

  • William Albertson says:

    Great article, my 60 year old cast iron pipes are working fine. i did install one power assisted toilet works great, Advise from plumber I add small amount of anti clogging solution monthly.

  • Eileen Sudzina says: kept breaking trying to play

  • Virginia carter says:


  • Wendy Wilson says:

    I was impressed with this information and a I try to keep the drains clean and use the trash instead
    of toilet and sinks

  • I’m Sandra Hapney says:

    This was very helpful. Is there a certain kind of toilet tissue that is easier on the bathroom pipes?

    • Joseph Szafran says:

      Thanks for reading our blog. Toilet paper is fine to put down the drain, the suggestion is too much toilet paper. Every parent knows the impact that putting too much toiler paper down the drain all at once can have.

  • I’m Sandra Hapney says:

    This was very helpful

  • Norman Jones says:

    Good information

  • Francis Dupre says:

    Well done!

  • Reggie Bomar says:

    I believe this is a valuable notification.

  • Denise Lobosco says:

    Good info

  • Denise Lobosco says:

    Good information

  • Marilyn Holland says:

    Great information. This effort needs everyone. Hopefully every household will will read this email and encourage and educate all household members from young children to the elderly to become active participants in protecting our ageing water and sewage systems.

  • Connie Parker says:

    Well done! A reminder of what not to flush and abt kitchen fats and oils could and should be put in each monthly bill. Most people don’t know or think until there is a problem.

  • Janice Williams says:

    Thanks for sharing such valuable information!

  • Laurence Seitz says:

    Thank you

  • Jerry Peyton says:

    Video did not play smoothly!
    Offer suggestions on what to do with meds; excess chemicals; contacts; anything else that should not go in land fill!

  • Jerry Peyton says:

    What does “awaiting moderation” mean?

  • Murray Pickard says:

    If people aren’t supposed to flush toilet paper, are bidets a viable option? An educational article about those might be in order if that is the case.

    • Joseph Szafran says:

      Thanks for reading our blog. The suggestion is too much toilet paper. Every parent knows the impact that putting too much toiler paper down the drain all at once can have.

  • Thomas W Chapman says:

    Good idea to send these communications since water is a vital but finite resource on the planet and in our daily lives. We all need to play our part in protecting water resources; as a suggestion, in your future newsletters I would place info on what customers can do to help at the front end of your message.

  • Francisca Borges says:

    Very interesting and helpful recommendations

  • Elizabeth Driscoll says:

    Thank you for this piece on the importance of water’s infrastructure. I recently returned from Mexico where throwing toilet paper in the toilet was not to be done. It took a day or two to change that automatic habit, and it was inconvenient, but inconvenience versus having clean, attainable water is a no brainer. Thank you again and keep these public awareness pieces coming. I think we take clean water for granted, as well as turning on the tap for a clean glass of water!

  • James N Zumbo says:

    Could you include this 12 things that should never go down the drain in your monthly bill mail out ?
    It would be a good reminder to have posted in a conspicuous place
    I could not get it to print from my computer
    Not everyone on your water supply (my 80 year old sister) has a computer.

  • Chuck Clowdis says:

    Helpful, informative information. Most citizens probably don’t know or care but nice effort on your part.

  • Jacalyn Berg says:

    You should lobby to have places like walmart, costco and other retailers that sell baby wipes to stop printing on the package that they ARE flushable.

  • John says:

    Thanks for the heads up. Just unclogged our toilet after many years.
    Will pass the video to my kids. Thanks

  • Karla E Seighman says:

    Helpful Info thank you

  • Harry Eugene Wood says:

    I have a feeling that this information is a prelude to an increase in our sewer rates. I am not disagreeing that this update is necessary, but my concern is for senior citizens on a fixed income and others on a fixed income. Where are they to get an increase in their sewer bill?

    • Joseph Szafran says:

      Thanks for contacting American Water. This email was done to provide some useful information to our customers. It was not a prelude to any rate increase.

  • Ann Colter says:


  • Mal Turzak says:

    I think this is an opportunity to educate the general population on the importance of clean water. Using the digital media is the correct process. Generally, most people take clean water as something that will always be there.

  • Alice Rau says:


  • Vickie Hankammer says:

    Thank you for the information you have presented here. I have always been so appreciative of the quality of water we enjoy here in the St. Louis area. I travel and am always disappointed by tap water quality in other states within the United States. Guests visiting me from around the country inevitability comment how ‘good’ my water is. I was raised by ecologically minded parents and have tried to teach my children the appropriate usage of the water and sewer systems as well. In my opinion, you do an amazing job! Also congratulations to Nate Mitchell for making a difference!

  • Juanita Casey says:

    Thanks for the information.

  • Willa Dean Cohan says:

    Great info. I do not put any items listed in my drains or toilet

  • Cesar Loeza says:

    Muy buen servicio, gracias

  • Kerry Tebbe says:

    M.S.D. is responsible for our waste water. Missouri American water is responsible for supplying clean water only in St. Louis County. So why does American Water bring up the problems associated with waste water?

    • Water Street says:

      Thanks for your question. American Water provides wastewater service to many communities throughout the country. We just wanted to take an opportunity to provide some useful information to all of our customers.

  • Nancy Brown says:

    It was helpful information that is a good “wake-up call”. We will try to be more careful.

  • Russel S Davidson says:

    Thank everyone for their excellent service and for providing safe water. Thanks also for the informative video and instructions. Spread the story. We need to inform one another and work together.

  • Diane Hanisch says:

    So…after going through the above list, we’re to leave toilet paper OUT of the toilet? Who checks this stuff? I appreciate the attempt, but you need a decent editor.

    • Joseph Szafran says:

      Thanks for reading our blog. The suggestion is too much toilet paper. Every parent knows the impact that putting too much toiler paper down the drain all at once can have.

  • Rodes says:

    This might be some good images to issue in your brochure

  • Joan Benson-Robinson says:

    If you could make the graphic above available for printing, I would use it with tenants and share it with younger family members who lack common sense but are environmentally responsible. Thank you

  • Joanna Spencer says:

    I probably throw more stuff in the trash than I flush or put thru the garbage disposal. I am trying to be a careful consumer.

  • Jordan says:

    very informative and helpful

  • Kathy says:

    Excellent presentation! The graphics show us the reality of what happens to pipes when specific items go into our drains! Thank you!

  • Marjorie G. Hill says:

    I will try to be more careful of what I put in drain.

  • Carolyn Reilly says:


  • Jodi says:

    You’re showing a picture advising medication NOT to be put down the sink. But how about flushing down the toilet? Just a few weeks ago I was told by an emergency room doctor to flush old medication down the toilet. I put it in the trash, instead.

    • Joseph Szafran says:

      Thanks for contacting American Water. You can find more information about how to properly dispose of prescription drugs here:

  • DONALD ADLER says:

    Thank you for the information. All people thought that toilet paper will not drain the toilet, Now because of your emails then we know now that everybody must not flush the toilet with toilet paper

    • Joseph Szafran says:

      Thanks for reading our blog. The suggestion is too much toilet paper. Every parent knows the impact that putting too much toiler paper down the drain all at once can have.

  • Barbara Gelb says:

    I believe I read don’t put toilet paper down the toilet. Was I wrong. I use single-ply in the toilet. What else can I do?

    • Joseph Szafran says:

      Thanks for reading our blog. The suggestion is too much toilet paper. Every parent knows the impact that putting too much toiler paper down the drain all at once can have.

  • David Schuchert says:

    Thank you for the info. verry informative ,good reading . Again thanks .


    I never flush a Tucks pad down a drain and neither should you.

  • Lynda S Davis says:

    I agree with everything you discussed, but think your format discourages getting your message to the public. If you make a video or write in a clearer way (horizontal bullets, maybe), I think your information is more likely to be read. Thanks for doing this…I think this info needs to be disseminated more often!

  • Phyllis Melampy says:

    Thank you for the info. I do protect the drains in my home.


    thank you for the information very helpful

  • Deborah Straka says:

    Thank you for the useful information!

  • Tracy LaBar says:

    Thank you for this information. I appreciate this information, and will do my part to keep everything “moving” in a responsible way 🙂

  • Kathy Cunningham says:

    Thank you for the information

  • JAMES J KELLY says:

    Instructive while keeping it simple and brief.

  • Ardelle K Restoff says:

    Are you suggesting that we NOT flush toilet paper in the toilet? I totally agree with everything else you suggest. Thank you.

    • Joseph Szafran says:

      Thanks for leaving a comment. Toilet paper is perfectly fine to flush down the toilet. Its just a reminder to not flush large amounts of toilet paper down the toilet all at once. I think we have all seen a toilet back up once or twice because of this.

  • N Williams says:

    So are you saying we can’t flush toilet paper down the drain? And is this email your way of hinting that our rates are going up?

    • Joseph Szafran says:

      Thanks for reading our blog. The suggestion is too much toilet paper. Every parent knows the impact that putting too much toiler paper down the drain all at once can have.

  • Susan LaGraff says:

    Will put on my “thinking cap” whenever I am in the bathroom. Thanks!

  • William Cox says:

    Sorry, but I have to use toilet paper !

  • Ligia Hernandez says:

    Excellent information

  • William Warren says:

    great information

  • Debra Reynolds says:

    Appreciate the affirmation as these are things we already do in our household. Having vacationed on houseboats, we also adopt other environmental friendly habits to protect our pipes and water system.

  • Bob Nelson says:

    This is informative. A couple of “unflushables” were new to me. We will try to do better.

  • Florence Bonney says:

    Thanks for this helpful information. Very eye opening. I hope people take the time to read it.

  • Kathleen Knoblock says:

    Good information to know. I am guilty of the ‘flushable’ wipes. Will reconsider that option.
    Thank you!

  • Joan Delaney says:

    Good reminders.

  • Robert L. Frazier says:

    I read your blog and I do my best to make sure that I do not clog up the pipes or water system.

  • elsie bray says:

    Thank you

  • Jona L Miller says:

    Can I possibly get print outs of this graphic, or something similar to it, to distribute to my tenants so they are aware of what should and should not go down the drain?

  • Helen D Kochera says:

    WHAT! We’re not supposed to flush toilet paper. What are we supposed to do with it? Also, Flushable wipes? I’m not putting THAT in my bathroom trash can that’s for sure. I’ve been flushing these for years without incident. Telling people not to flush these is downright disgusting! What’s next? Are you going to tell us that poop and pee will clog toilets so we shouldn’t put them in the toilet either? GIVE ME A BREAK!

    • Joseph Szafran says:

      Thanks for reading our blog. The suggestion is too much toilet paper. Every parent knows the impact that putting too much toiler paper down the drain all at once can have. 🙂

  • Frank says:

    I once had tenants, very nice people, who had been flushing dental floss down the same toilet for an extended period of time. There is no sign of trouble until it is too late. Please do not flush dental floss down the toilet!

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