img Explainer

America's Water Pipeline Puzzle
ONC Editorial

May 30, 2023

This Explainer discusses the declining state of U.S. water infrastructure and recent steps toward improvement.

America’s declining water infrastructure is a national issue because our water supplies are not as localized as we imagined.  

The pipeline system is aging and deteriorating at a rate that is failing to keep up with demands. Corrosion is the leading cause of pipeline failure, and the number of significant incidents has been increasing each year since 2006. With an already weak pipeline system, rising sea levels in flood plains and coastal areas threaten drinking water and sewage treatment plants, and repeated catastrophic storms have the potential to overwhelm water treatment abilities. The need to replace pipelines comes coupled, too, with a need to extend them as 2 million Americans remain without running water to begin with. 

New progress has come to light in the past decade. Plastics have been found to potentially serve as safe, highly affordable materials for constructing new pipes as quickly as possible. In the largest form of federal investment in infrastructure within a generation, the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act dedicated approximately $82.5 billion to critical water infrastructure improvements and even addressed relevant climate impacts. A step in a perhaps more unified direction towards investment and regulation, the historic bill calls to our attention the nationwide significance of our water pipeline system’s failings and future. 

To see all sources consulted/reviewed/interviewed for the purposes of writing this article and/or to learn more about this article's author, click here.

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