We all need clean and safe drinking water and public waterways free from sewage and other pollutants. While we do not often think about them, complex systems of pipes, storage systems, and treatment facilities are needed to bring safe drinking water to our homes, properly remove and dispose of sewage, and keep stormwater from overwhelming our communities and waterways. Unfortunately, water infrastructure systems throughout the country are outdated and not properly maintained, leading to cracks and leaks in drinking water pipes, overwhelmed wastewater systems that dump sewage into rivers, and stormwater systems that flush pollutants directly into our waterways. Significant updates to water infrastructure are also needed to adapt to and avoid the impacts of climate change. The American Society of Civil Engineers, in its 2017 Infrastructure Report Card, gave the United States a grade of D for drinking water infrastructure and D+ for wastewater infrastructure, concluding that these systems will require investments of $1 trillion and $271 billion, respectively, over the next 20-25 years.
As the water crisis in Flint, Michigan taught us, drinking water infrastructure and the decisions that officials make in the face of a deteriorating system can have devastating impacts on human health and quality of life. While the direct cause of the crisis was bad decisionmaking by officials in a blatant disregard for the health of the residents of Flint, the lead that poisoned the water leached from old drinking water pipes. About 10 million American homes and buildings receive water from service line pipes that are at least partially composed of lead, while millions of water mains in cities across the country and plumbing systems in homes and buildings are also composed of lead. But there are no plans to replace these pipes anytime soon; instead, drinking water companies rely on systems like the one that so terribly failed in Flint – treating the water to make it less likely to corrode the pipes, and periodically testing the water for lead.
Exposure to lead, while a serious concern, especially for children in low-income communities, is just one of many water infrastructure challenges that need to be addressed. Access to clean, safe drinking water is a basic right, but it can only be realized with the political will and funding needed to address the challenges. So, this week, we are asking you to call your members of Congress and let them know that funding for water infrastructure is desperately needed throughout the country.
“My name is [YOUR NAME] and I am a resident of ZIP code [ZIP CODE]. I am calling today because I am concerned about the state of our nation’s water infrastructure. For communities to have access to safe, clean drinking water for decades to come, we need significant investments to maintain and upgrade our drinking water infrastructure. Also, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure must be updated in many communities to keep sewage and other pollutants from contaminating our waterways and making us sick. When we invest in our water infrastructure, we not only promote healthy communities and waterways, we also support quality jobs. Therefore, I am asking that you rigorously support all efforts to increase drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure funding. Thank you!”