Seven billion gallons. From dripping faucets to burst water mains, that’s the amount of potable water that’s wasted every single day from our country’s leaky pipes.
Simply put, the nation’s water pipes are way too old. As ABC News puts it, “Much of the piping that carries drinking water in the country dates to the first half of the 20th century, with some installed before Theodore Roosevelt was in the White House.”
Aging pipes are precisely the reason why a 100-year-old water main recently burst in Los Angeles, spewing out 20 million gallons of precious water in the already drought-stricken Californian city.
So what’s stopping Uncle Sam from calling the plumber? Cost, of course, is one main reason. According to Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. will need to spend up to $200 billion dollars on water systems over the next 20 years to upgrade transmission and distribution systems, $97 billion of which will need to go towards water loss control.
The New York Times also points out a much more sinister reason why the country isn’t giving its aging water infrastructure a facelift. Mary Ann Dickinson, president of the Alliance for Water Efficiency, tells the paper, “Water loss is unsexy,” adding, “There’s no ribbon cutting for new plants. If you announce that you’ve recovered a million gallons a day, it looks like you weren’t managing your system right in the first place.”
But this necessary (albeit expensive) fix could also mitigate much bigger problems. As the American Society of Civil Engineers says, if we do nothing about it, we’ll only have more water shortages to come, increased rates as water gets more expensive and even increased exposure to water-borne illnesses due to unreliable delivery and wastewater treatment services.
Our water systems are only getting older and the planet is only getting hotter, which means more droughts all around — and not just in the American southwest. Solutions are more crucial than ever to conserve this important resource.
Meanwhile, it may be a good idea for you to call your local plumber if you haven’t gotten around to patching up that leaky faucet.