U.S. Water System Crumbling, Survey Supports Fix

photo old water ITT survey
Photo by Stockerre, via Flickr

How many of us take clean water for granted in the United States? It comes out of faucet like magic, right? And it's cheap compared to so many other necessities (and luxuries) in our lives. But what about the pipes, treatment plants and other infrastructure that delivers clean water to our homes? Would you be shocked to know the nation's H2O backbone is crumbling? A new survey by ITT Corp, which makes and sells water infrastructure equipment, says that investment in the nation's water infrastructure system hasn't kept up with the pressures of population growth and urbanization. As noted in a recent New York Times column by Bob Herbert:

"Aging and corroded pipes are bursting somewhere every couple of minutes. Dilapidated sewer systems are contaminating waterways and drinking water. Many local systems are so old and inadequate—in some cases, so utterly rotten—that they are overwhelmed by heavy rain."

ITT's Value of Water Survey says that 95 percent of voters rate water as more important than any other service, including electricity and heat. Nearly two-thirds say they're willing to pay more to ensure long-term access to clean water.

As it is now, leaky pipes in the U.S. cause the loss of $2.6 billion in water a year, and 10 billion gallons of raw sewage are released into waterways as a result of insufficient infrastructure, ITT says. The average American pays just $1.50 for 1,000 gallons of tap water, according to the American Water Works Association.

The ITT survey, of 1,003 voters and 500 businesses, found that 63 percent of voters are willing to pay an average of 11 percent more on their water bill each month to help ensure continued access to a reliable and consistent supply of clean water.

When applied across all American households, that's equal to $5.4 billion
—or four times the Fiscal Year 2009 federal investment in U.S. drinking water systems. A majority of industrial and agricultural businesses surveyed said they're willing to pay an average of 7 percent more per month for the water they consume. The Congressional Budget Office says the gap between the need and investment in the U.S. water infrastructure is almost $19 billion a year.

Do you agree? As much as it will cost, is it time to begin repairing and investing in America's water infrastructure?

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