Water Companies Are Billions Short to Fix Country’s Aging Water Systems

You wouldn’t think a Civil War relic would bring you fresh, clean drinking water. But that’s how bad things have gotten with our nation’s aging water system.

According to WUSA,

Some pipes are so old, they are literally cracking at the seams.

The impact can be massive like the water main break on December 23, 2008, when a broken water main turned Bethesda’s River Road into a literal river. Five motorists were pulled from the torrent including a mother and child.

Three years later, there was another massive water main break. This one was in Capitol Heights. Luckily, there were no rescues, but the problem caused more destruction.

Then last May, it happened again. A broken water main on MacArthur Blvd. flooded homes. According to DC Water, the water main was almost 160 years old, installed in the 1860’s.

The damage and subsequent repair tied up traffic for days. “Yeah, traffic was pretty bad,” said neighbor Jeff McInturff, who fought the tie-ups for more than a week.

Meanwhile, the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC), the largest water provider in the DC area and one of the largest in the nation, said it’s spending $1.9 billion over the next six years to update its system.

“Our pipes, as you know, are out of sight, out of mind,” said WSSC General Manager and CEO Carla Reid. “It’s an uphill battle to try and replace them all.”

So why do water utilities feel like they’re swimming up stream? Because all that money they’re spending is still not enough!

At current rates, DC Water and WSSC are replacing just one percent of our aging water lines per year — and believe it or not, that’s still a lot faster than many parts of the country.

The American Society for Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave the nation’s infrastructure a D-plus in its recent report card. ASCE estimated the country was $105 billion short of the funding it needs to fix the nation’s crumbling water and wastewater systems.

“The federal government has not done enough,” said Congressman John Delaney, D-Md.

Delaney introduced H.R. 1670, a bill to boost infrastructure spending by $1 trillion over the next 10 years, including major increases for water infrastructure. Delaney said he would close international tax loopholes to pay for the plan.

Despite sitting in the minority party, Delaney is hopeful that his infrastructure plan will get bipartisan approval. “We are kicking the can down the street by not doing this, because that has an impact on our economy and the lives of our citizens,” Delaney told WUSA9. “But we’re also increasing the cost over time.”

The question is how long can you outsmart, age?

So who’s paying for the repairs that are being made if the federal government isn’t? The answer: Citizens are responsible for the fees on the bill.

MACo has prioritized investment in local infrastructure as one of its core initiatives. Learn more about the initiative here and on Conduit Street at Local Infrastructure Fast Track (LIFT4MD).

Useful Links

Maryland’s 2017 Infrastructure Report Card

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: U.S. Infrastructure Gets “D+”; 24% of MD Roads In Poor Condition

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: MACo Advocates for Local Infrastructure Funding

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