We continue our Infrastructure Week with more information about the dire state of America’s water system.
Although the Flint Water Crisis brought our faulty water system into focus, as it turns out, Flint, Michigan isn’t the only place with faulty water pipes. Much of the rest of America has faulty water pipes as well and to upgrade the water system also has a huge price tag: $1 trillion.
Hot and Cold Running
Indoor plumbing is a modern invention that I think most people are grateful for. The 20th century brought indoor plumbing to a variety of American homes. As with most things, cities were the first install pipes and by the mid-century, most people had running water in their homes. It is a convenience we take for granted and expect to work at all times. However, that original infrastructure is wearing out.
The system of storage, pipes, pumps, and delivery systems is in desperate need of replacement. 44% of all water systems are poor or very poor. Most water systems are owned and operated by cities or water districts with publically-accountable boards. They are supported via water fees and sometimes through taxation. As with Flint, Michigan, many states still have lead water pipes at some point in the system that need to be replaced as they could fail at any time.
Privitization to the Rescue?
The American Water Works CEO explains in this video why we have a water crisis and how we can go about fixing it. They promote privatization instead of working with local municipalities to raise the necessary money to improve our water system. Privatization of public utilities, like something as simple as water, is not necessarily something that we would like to promote, however, we use this video to show that the convenience of running water is something, that while we take it for granted, requires a great deal of infrastructure to keep up.
Why Can’t We Provide Basic Services?
Dropped jaws are the first thing you experience when you start to read about the Flint water crisis and find out that lead pipes are still in place throughout the nation. It seems that in a nation that outputs $17 Trillion in GDP per year that basic services like water and power would not be a stretch to provide. However, thanks to years of budget cuts, tax cuts, and low tax rates, the money for repairing and replacing the built environment of the country simply hasn’t been available. Cities and states are running everything on a shoestring. This has been exacerbated by the rising costs of upkeep and new construction. Most new construction is contracted out and those contracts are often bloated or the projects simply overrun their budgets. There are two ways to solve this problem: more oversight of contracting and raising taxes on all income, especially the income of the wealthy to pay for what the whole nation needs and uses.
This is America, providing basic services should not be a privilege for the wealthy few, it should be something everyone can enjoy.