Water Infrastructure in the U.S.

Our nation’s drinking water infrastructure is in desperate need of attention. This is not breaking news. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave our underground water system a C- and their economic study found that the annual drinking water and wastewater investment gap will eventually grow to $434 billion by 2029.

Water Infrastructure Insights

Person fills up cup of tap drinking water

The Hill: In Praise of The Monthly Water Bill

Council members Kathryn Sorensen and Manny Teodoro, along with the Director of Navajo Nation Division of Natural Resources, Bitdah Becker, recently collaborated to comment on the monthly water bill. The three co-authors made the argument that community water systems form the foundation of public health, economic opportunity, and quality of life and bills should be paid accordingly by the communities that utilize the systems.

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Staying Focused on the Risks That Matter

Attention and money focused on the next thing is attention and money taken away from the thing that is most impactful—the thing that best protects public health for the greatest number of people—investment in aging water infrastructure

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Safe-Affordable-Drinking-Water

Providing Clean, Safe and Affordable Drinking Water for all Americans

New contaminants’ health risks must be substantiated if they are to take resources away from long-standing contaminant risks. Replacing aging infrastructure isn’t glamorous and doesn’t have the allure of addressing a contaminant with a pseudonym in air quotes, but it is critical to protecting drinking water and public health in the long term.

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Water Infrastructure Resources

Our country has achieved broad successes in the delivery of safe, clean water in support of public health. Here are some resources from trusted organizations that can be used to support science-based decision making regarding safe, reliable drinking water for all.

Center For Disease

The Water Research Foundation is the world’s leading water research and innovation organization.

EPA

The Environmental Protection Agency is an independent executive agency of the U.S.  federal government tasked with environmental protection matters. 

Center For Disease

The Association of State Drinking Water Administrators (ASDWA) is the professional Association serving state drinking water programs.

Campaign will convene experts to provide critical guidance on the future of drinking water safety

The Water & Health Advisory Council (the Council), a multidisciplinary group of drinking water experts, today announced the launch of a national campaign to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Safe Drinking Water Act and provide guidance to lawmakers on the future of drinking water safety in the United States. The campaign will showcase public health successes achieved by the Safe Drinking Water Act and illuminate regulatory actions that have veered from the law’s original intent. Throughout 2024, the Council will promote multimedia testimonials from drinking water, public health and elected officials; host local events in select municipalities and conclude with a symposium at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The Safe Drinking Water Act (the Act) marked a pivotal moment in public health, ushering in crucial regulatory changes and water treatment protocols that significantly improved the quality of drinking water. However, over 2 million Americans still today do not have dependable access to safe drinking water. Small, rural, and disadvantaged communities are particularly vulnerable, facing increased threats from unsafe and unreliable water sources. As the Act enters its sixth decade, it is essential that upgrading deteriorating infrastructure and eradicating microbial and other known contaminants in drinking water are a top priority.

“It is remarkable to reflect on the progress we have made providing safe drinking water in our nation,” said Rob Renner, Chair of the Council. “In the next 50 years, it is essential that we prioritize improvements to our drinking water infrastructure that meaningfully reduce public health risks and extend access to safe drinking water to more individuals. We must remain vigilant in addressing the most pressing public health risks in our drinking water,” emphasized Renner.

A recent report from Utah State University revealed a $452 billion shortfall in crucial funding required to modernize the network of pipes delivering tap water to households nationwide. The report also highlighted the occurrence of over 260,000 breaks in these water pipelines annually. Regrettably, federal and state resources designated for safeguarding drinking water safety often prioritize emerging, attention-grabbing concerns, leaving well-documented risks unaddressed.

The SDWA 50th Anniversary campaign will culminate with a symposium at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, bringing together water sector leaders, academic researchers, and community leaders to issue guidance for achieving reliable and safe drinking water into the future. “The SDWA led to great strides in public health over the past fifty years, but too many communities and regulatory agencies lack the capacity to ensure safe, reliable, and sustainable water,” said Manny Teodoro, Robert F. and Sylvia T. Wagner Professor of Public Affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “The challenge ahead is to get the basics right: sound distribution systems, robust utility organizations, and effective implementation of existing regulations, everywhere and for everyone.”

Although we face many challenges in supplying safe, reliable and accessible drinking water in the U.S. today, supporting our local and diverse communities using sound science-based policies, and prioritizing the threats to public health can help pave a better future of public drinking water.

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