What will come of our aging water infrastructure?

An article released by CNN.com today discusses the condition of water infrastructure systems in the United States. After reading a short story about a water main that erupted under a woman’s home, the author stated that this was “one of an average 700 water main breaks nationwide that experts say occur each day.” The author then proceeds to discuss how America’s water infrastructure is aging. In the 2009 Report Card of America’s Infrastructure (conducted by the American Society of Civil Engineers), the nation’s water system was given a D-. In a nation with a growing population, what does this mean in terms of security and delivery?

Eric Goldstein of the National Resource Defense Council describes what could potentially happen “”Anytime you’re breaking the seal of the system that brings water into your homes and apartments, you’re risking contamination from bacteria and viruses.” In other words, every time you make a connection to an existing water supply, you risk contaminating it with outside pollutants or bacteria.

In systems that deliver water to 100,000 people or more, 30% of the pipes are 40 to 80 years old. Approximately 10% of the pipes are greater than 80 years old. To compound the problem, modern technology makes it increasingly difficult to maintain, repair, and retrofit water systems. “There’s now Verizon lines that didn’t used to be there, cable lines, fiber lines, electrical lines,” said District of Columbia water general manager George Hawkins. “So much has been added to the underworld, that each one of the these fixes is getting more and more complicated to get done properly.” The nation’s capital, Hawkins said, averages about one water pipe break each day.

To read more about our aging water infrastructure, visit http://edition.cnn.com/2011/US/01/20/water.main.infrastructure/

Brian O’Neill

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