Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Why America’s Water Infrastructure Matters

When Hurricane Irma hit in September, the aging sewer systems in Brunswick, Georgia flooded, making a very bad situation even worse. It can be hard to imagine going without water for one day, but thousands in Brunswick were not able to take showers, wash dishes, or flush toilets for four days. Our water infrastructure plays a seamless part in everyday life, so when it goes awry, the public notices. This specific example is why upgrading America’s water infrastructure is so important.

The American Water Works Association’s 2017 State of the Water Industry Report suggests that renewing water and wastewater infrastructure is the number one concern of water utility professionals in North America. However, because water infrastructure is out of sight, the seriousness of the issue is often times misunderstood.

MYTH: The federal government already overspends on water infrastructure.

FACT: 96 percent of public spending on water infrastructure comes from states and localities. So even though the conversation often makes national news, local water utilities often carry the financial burden.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the United States has nearly 52,000 community water systems. Because water systems are such regional operations, this can lead to coordination difficulties.

MYTH: As a public utility, water doesn’t add much to the economy.

FACT: Just 30 of the country’s largest water utilities support $52 billion in economic output and nearly 30,000 jobs annually. That doesn’t even include the millions of households, businesses, and industries that need seamless water infrastructure to function and grow their business.

In Minnesota, agriculture is a very important economic engine, and water systems are vital for its success. That’s because agriculture is one of the largest consumers of water. Water systems are tied directly to this industry and to workers that grow our food.

MYTH: Water costs are rising because water providers want higher revenue.

FACT: Water rates are increasing in many cities to cover the cost of infrastructure upgrades and repairs. In Flint, Michigan, infamous for its water contamination scandal, that will add up to an extra $300 billion on the county’s water bill. That puts many families in danger of not being able to afford their water bills. More public investment could help alleviate some of this cost.

The Minnesota Section of the American Water Works Association is committed to providing clean drinking water to Minnesota. For more information, visit our website.