Water is the world’s most precious resource. It keeps life flowing all around us – from brushing your teeth or making your morning cup of coffee, to the manufacturing of almost every product you interact with daily. Now more than ever, considering the public health emergency, consumers are relying on a quality drinking water supply and reliable wastewater systems for sustenance and sanitation in their homes. Delivering clean water and providing reliable sewer service is dependent on the treatment plants, storage tanks, pumps, and pipes that make up our water and wastewater infrastructure. However, much of this critical infrastructure that brings water to the tap and conveys wastewater from your home has aged beyond its useful life and will require more than two trillion dollars over the coming decades to fix. Unfortunately, there is a significant gap in available public funding to make the necessary investment in many water and wastewater systems across the United States.
Water infrastructure can be a complex topic to understand, so we assisted the Value of Water Campaign and the American Society of Civil Engineers with a report that outlines just how important this is to our everyday lives: The Economic Benefits of Investing in Water Infrastructure: How a Failure to Act Would Affect the US Economic Recovery. Here are some key takeaways:
Water infrastructure in the U.S. is aging and needs additional support.
Many U.S. water and wastewater systems were built more than 70 years ago, meaning that our pipes, plants, and pumps have reached the end of their expected lifespan – the impact of which is becoming more and more obvious. In fact, between 2012 and 2018, the rate of water main breaks across the U.S. increased by 27%, reaching the point where a water main breaks every two minutes. Because of water main breaks and continuous leaks, drinking water systems currently lose at least six billion gallons of treated water per day (the equivalent of 500+ billion bathtubs per year!) with no sign of slowing down.
On top of this, the population is growing, treatment requirements are becoming more stringent, and climate variability is resulting in more frequent and intense weather-related events. Even if our water infrastructure wasn’t past its expected useful life, it’s still a challenge to provide reliable water service under the current circumstances.
Private companies are stepping in to help support the gap in funding for improvements to our water infrastructure.
As a private company that owns more than 460 water and wastewater systems with pipelines totaling nearly 52,000 miles throughout the United States, American Water is committed to making the necessary investment that our water infrastructure requires.
In fact, we are replacing aging pipes at a significantly higher rate than the water utility industry average – and we are increasing our replacement rate going forward. Over the next ten years, American Water will invest approximately $20 to $22 billion in capital to help provide reliable, safe, and affordable water and wastewater services is provided to every customer. Our investments include replacing aging pipes and upgrading existing or constructing new treatment, storage, and pumping facilities to expand capacity, comply with the latest water quality standards, and enhance the resiliency of our systems.
We all can play a part in protecting and preserving America’s water infrastructure.
As a customer, you can help protect our critical water infrastructure though simple measures such as rethinking what you put down your sink and flush down your toilet. By not flushing wipes, paper towels or other items, you can help prevent pipe clogs, sewerage overflows, and damage to our infrastructure. Finally, try to be mindful of how much water you use. Limiting any unnecessary water usage lowers system demands which can help delay or even avoid required future infrastructure expansions; and save you money in the process.
Every day, American Water lives out its commitment to effectively addressing America’s water infrastructure challenge, but we know we can’t do it alone. We are proud to work with customers, communities, regulators, governments, and all key stakeholders towards a better tomorrow for water infrastructure.