Aging US Water Infrastructure Wastes Massive Amounts of Water


Upgrading and modernizing our aging water infrastructure can be an incredibly effective method of conserving fresh water. In fact, cutting water losses and optimizing its use ought to be one of the very first steps in building a more sustainable world.

However, because much of our water systems are virtually invisible to the average citizen, the water infrastructure may not be getting the attention, or the innovation, that it needs in order to be able to cope with the increased demands and changing environmental and climate conditions.

Developing and implementing new and more efficient ways of distributing, applying, and recycling water could be an excellent eco entrepreneurial entry to the water infrastructure industry, and these types of water innovation could help cities and regions become more resilient and more sustainable.

Fixing The Unseen Infrastructure: The Value Of Water

The Value of Water Coalition hosted an in-depth conversation at the Newseum in Washington DC on the current condition of water infrastructure in the United States, the consequences of letting leaky and failing systems worsen, and solutions to water challenges of today and tomorrow.

Our water infrastructure systems, a matter of pride for over a century, are now aging. At the same time, climate change has accelerated the critical need for this once-ubiquitous resource. In a speech last week at the Tappan Zee Bridge, which crosses New York State’s Hudson River at one of its widest points, President Obama pointed out a growing and usually ignored dilemma of water use in the United States:

“We’ve got leaky pipes that lose billions of gallons of drinking water every single day, even as we’ve got a severe drought in much of the West.”

As part of the recent Infrastructure Week 2014, the Value of Water Coalition hosted an in-depth conversation to explore the current condition of US water infrastructure, the consequences of letting failing systems worsen, and solutions to meeting our water challenges.

“Out of sight, out of mind.” Unlike highways, ports, transit, and power lines, our water system mostly lies hidden underground. Its fresh and waste water components take up more than four times the length of the National Highway System. Ken Kopocis, a senior advisor to the U.S. EPA for Water featured in the video clip here, compared how our water infrastructure relates to other types of infrastructure.  

In many ways, water infrastructure is the stepchild of other infrastructures, and a victim of its own success. We’ve had it for more than a century (see chart), it still works, and aside from the occasional catastrophe, we never pay attention to it.

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