Infrastructure in the News: The Domino Effect of Water Infrastructure

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Recent events, including water main breaks, have renewed attention in our nation’s pipes, sewers, and dams and this week Members of Congress focused on different aspects of our water delivery and water resources infrastructure.

Representatives Earl Blumenauer, John Duncan and Richard Hanna introduced the Water Investment Trust Fund Act, a bipartisan bill that will provide a source of revenue to help states replace, repair and rehabilitate critical clean drinking water facilities. Water infrastructure issues can have a domino effect in a community. Last year alone, American communities suffered more than 240,000 water main breaks and saw overflowing combined sewer systems, causing contamination, property damage, disruptions in the water supply, and massive traffic jams. Thus this bill addresses water infrastructure with the intention of alleviating some of these issues. One example of the challenge that comes when a pipe bursts is in Scranton, Pennsylvania. The frigid weather coupled with the gushing water created a blanket of ice for one neighborhood.

In addition to drinking water facilities, dams also play a critical role in our daily lives—even if they’re often out of sight, and out of mind. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the biggest source of renewable energy in the U.S. is hydropower, making up nearly half of the U.S.’ renewable energy in 2014. Yet the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has classified about 14,000 of those dams as “high hazard potential.” To repair and update just the high-hazard dams, the Association of State Dam Safety Officials estimates it would cost $21 billion.

An article in Tech Insider features a map that shows the country’s dams color coded by how hazardous they are and points to the need for the National Dam Safety Program to be authorized. Alabama is the only state without a dam safety program, meaning their state’s dams have not been inventoried since the 1970s.

As our water infrastructure, in all of its forms, continues to age, we must invest in it. Therefore, it is critical that elected leaders at the federal, state and local levels continue to prioritize investment into the backbone of our economy.

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