Aging Water Infrastructure and Emergency Preparedness

aging water infrastructure

Most people are aware of the crumbling state of our nation’s aging water infrastructure, but despite the growing awareness of the problem, not enough is being done about it.  Philadelphia in particular has one of the oldest, most decrepit water systems in the entire country.  Some of the pipes were installed 150 years ago!  Unfortunately, the problem of aging pipes is not restricted to Philadelphia alone – it is a widespread reality that many municipalities are dealing with, and it has greatly contributed to the approximate 240,000 water main breaks that occur each and every year across the U.S!

How the Aging Water Infrastructure is Being Addressed

The good news is that the tides are starting to turn.  Over the last couple of years, there has been a spike in general awareness of this problem, and capital investment is on the rise. But it might not be enough.  According to the American Water Works Association (AWWA), an investment of over $1 trillion (yes, trillion!) is needed over the next 25 years to repair or replace our ageing water infrastructure, an effort that would likely increase water bills by 300% in some cases.

While none of us wants the price of water to rise, this is clearly an investment that needs to be done, because fixing the problem is critical on multiple levels.  First and foremost, we all need clean drinking water, and we don’t want to deal with flooded homes or businesses due to water main breaks.  But there is a deeper level of concern specific to emergency preparedness.  Outage restoration and recovery efforts rely on a reliable supply of water, no matter whether it’s for fighting forest fires or simply keeping restoration personnel well hydrated so they can perform at an optimal level.  Just imagine how much more difficult it would be to deal with emergency situations without an adequate supply of water.  In my mind there is little doubt that the time is now to fix the problem (well, actually the time was decades ago…but better late than never!).

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