Trillion Gallons Lost From Ageing Water Systems, Threatens U.S Cities

by | Mar 5, 2024 | Daily News, Environmental News

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Trillion gallons were lost from ageing water systems all across the United States, highlighting a pressing economic and public health crisis following years of neglect and underinvestment. This predicament particularly impacts older industrial and rural regions in the eastern half of the nation, where significant population and industrial declines have left behind impoverished communities and ageing water infrastructure.

In locales like Highland Park, Detroit, where the population has dwindled by half over the past two decades, roughly 70% of the water disappears from pipes that are over a century old. Similar woes plague several suburbs of Chicago, where water loss likely exceeds 40%. Shockingly, some systems in Georgia are haemorrhaging over 80% of their treated drinking water, as reported by Sunil Sinha, a water researcher at Virginia Tech.

Trillion Gallons Lost From Ageing Water Systems, Threatens U.S Cities

The problem isn’t confined to occasional cold snaps or seasonal fluctuations. The recent frigid spell in January resulted in water line ruptures in numerous communities, including Memphis, Tennessee, and an Arkansas town enduring a two-week water shortage. However, cracks and leaks plague these systems year-round, with Jackson, Mississippi’s infrastructure teetering on the brink of collapse in August 2022, leaving 150,000 residents parched for weeks.

Eric Oswald, the drinking water director at Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, laments the waste and financial burden on consumers when water loss reaches such staggering levels. He emphasizes that this issue affects numerous shrinking and aging communities across Michigan, where aging infrastructure exacerbates the problem.

Despite its severity, water loss has received less attention compared to other pressing issues like lead service lines and overflowing sewers. However, the consequences are grave: communities expend excessive resources treating and purchasing water they never deliver, while stagnant water in oversized systems poses health risks, and pressure losses from ruptured pipes invite contamination.

Challenges in Addressing the Crisis

Experts cite reluctance to raise water rates and difficulties in securing funding as major barriers to addressing water loss. Struggling communities often grapple with competing priorities, such as fire protection and law enforcement, leaving little room to tackle infrastructure challenges. John C. Young, who managed Flint, Michigan’s recovery efforts post-lead crisis, underscores the plight of communities like Prichard, Alabama, which faces a staggering 60% water loss and legal battles after defaulting on loans.

Despite the gravity of the situation, there’s no comprehensive national database tracking water loss, nor are there federal mandates compelling communities to mitigate it. Sunil Sinha advocates for limiting losses to 10% or less, stressing the urgent need for action. Illinois officials are stepping up efforts to monitor water use and loss, recognizing the urgency of the deteriorating infrastructure.

As Trillion gallons are lost from ageing water systems, the imperative for investment and regulatory action grows more urgent. Without swift intervention, communities will continue to grapple with mounting economic burdens and compromised public health, underscoring the critical need for decisive action at all levels of government.

Also Read: California Snowstorm Closes Highway, Leaves Thousands Without Power


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