By D. Michael Langford and Susan N. Story
For much of the last century, America’s infrastructure cultivated innovation and progress. Our interstate highway system facilitated commerce and travel. The nation’s power grid expanded until virtually every household had access to electricity. And our water and wastewater systems raised the standard of living and helped water-reliant businesses and industries make the U.S. the strongest economy in the world.
But now we are at a crossroads. We see it play out on our television screens almost daily. America is experiencing an infrastructure crisis. Our water and natural gas distribution pipelines are aging, and our city’s bridges, tunnels, and streets, are falling apart.
A case in point, many communities are struggling to maintain a way of life with failing water and wastewater infrastructure systems and limited dollars to update, maintain, and expand systems that were put in place 50 to 100 years ago. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, there are an estimated 240,000 water main breaks per year in the United States—or about 650 breaks a day. They also estimated that leaking drinking water pipes result in the loss of 7 billion gallons of clean, drinking water each day