Can you imagine a day without water? Think about how many times you turn on a faucet, flush a toilet, take a shower, or use water to keep your home or workplace clean. Life without water would change a lot of things we do every day to be a lot more complicated. Civil engineers work around the clock to keep water systems operating so you can live your life without worrying about what comes out of your faucet.
For many communities, a day without water has been a reality
October 19th marks the ninth annual “Imagine A Day Without Water” with the US Water Alliance. It’s a day where we are reminded of the importance of clean, accessible, affordable drinking water – and that many communities still face challenges with water access.
Over the past few years, we’ve seen headlines showing how vulnerable the water infrastructure in American communities is. Last year, Hurricane Fiona caused extensive water problems in Puerto Rico and the failure of the water treatment plant in Jackson Mississippi forced an American city of nearly 160,000 people to rely on bottled water for their drinking needs.
People in those communities shared with ASCE what it was like to adjust to live without reliable water sources temporarily.
Where America’s water systems are now
ASCE’s 2021 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure assigned America’s drinking water a grade of ‘C-‘. That’s an improvement from the 2017 grade of ‘D’. But that’s still a grade nobody wants to see on a report card when it comes to something we all need to survive. Water loss is a staggering problem in America. There is a water main break once every two minutes in the United States and about six billion gallons of treated water is lost every day – which is enough to fill 9,000 swimming pools each day. There are more than two million miles of water pipes delivering water to millions of people. Others rely on private wells for their drinking water.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is bringing a historic investment in America’s water systems, with $50 billion in funds through Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund Programs. However, that $50 billion in funding is just a faction of the estimated investment needed in America’s water systems according to ASCE’s 2020 report: The Economic Benefits of Investing in Water Infrastructure.
Don’t take water access for granted
Access to water has changed the course of history. Cities have been developed because of their proximity to water. Fights over water sources have sparked prolonged legal fights. The water we depend on every day is a valuable resource that must be invested in so we all have access to clean, safe, reliable drinking water.