Key Topic

Water

When water infrastructure is underfunded, a simple activity like drinking a glass of tap water could be unsafe.  There are over 55,000 community drinking water systems. Surprisingly, there are several areas of the nation that are still utilizing water infrastructure systems that pre-date the Civil War. It is estimated that drinking water utilities will need to invest $334.8 billion over the next 20 years, above the level of current spending, to continue to provide safe and sufficient water to the American public (Environmental Protection Agency, 2009). That is a serious level of funding needed but if we are to maintain a first-class society, where people can safely drink from our water systems, we must make these investments.

There are over 30,000 wastewater treatment and collection facilities. Most Americans may never see such a facility since most of this infrastructure is hidden, underground, and out of sight. For every $1.00 invested in public water and sewer infrastructure services, approximately $8.97 is added to the national economy (U.S. Conference of Mayors, 2008). However, if these systems fail, and our drinking and ground water becomes contaminated, we will find ourselves dealing with a crisis of such significance that the costs could be far more than we are able to afford in terms of dollars, quality of life, and future cleanliness of our water supply. We must not let these systems fall into a state of disrepair.

There are 26,000 miles of commercially navigable waterways and over 79,000 dams located throughout the United States. Over 4,095 dams are "unsafe" and have deficiencies that leave them more susceptible to failure, especially during large flood events or earthquakes (American Society of Civil Engineers, 2009). On an average day, some 43 million tons of goods valued at $29 billion move on the nation’s interconnected network of ports, roads, rails and inland waterways (U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 2008). These are critical infrastructure systems that, if not repaired and maintained, will cause catastrophic consequences by flooding towns, cities, and farmland in virtually every region of the United States. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita showed the world what happens when our levees are not built to handle the appropriate levels of water. Had we invested more just a few years before, we may have prevented the billions in costs following that disaster from having to have been spent and saved thousands of lives. As Benjamin Franklin was quoted as saying: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”