The details are as clear as the water we drink. The U.S. is quickly approaching a crisis point when it comes to clean drinking water.
The network of pipes that makes it so easy for 300 million Americans to take our clean water for granted spans 700,000 miles and is more than four times the length of the National Highway System. Some of these pipes –originally intended to survive 50 to 75 years – have been in service for more than 100 years. Without renewal or replacement, water pipes in the U.S. that are classified as poor, very poor or life-elapsed will increase from 10 percent to 44 percent by 2020.
The American Society of Civil Engineers grades both wastewater and drinking water systems a D-, the lowest ratings of any infrastructure category, including our aging highways and bridges. The risks of allowing these systems to lapse are as real as they are alarming. Already, aging wastewater systems discharge billions of gallons of untreated wastewater into our surface waters every year. Leaking and broken pipes waste nearly two trillion gallons of clean drinking water each year. And every two minutes, somewhere in the U.S., a significant water line ruptures – oftentimes underground where it is not visible – risking major damage to roadways and structures. On top of these challenges, we are experiencing more floods and droughts, while aging infrastructure could increase the risk of water-borne illnesses.