The water purification problem is compounded even more because drinking water also is contaminated daily by industry, antiquated lead pipe delivery systems, and weakening government oversight. An estimated 105 million people receive water from public water systems that use groundwater, and one federal agency proclaims that an estimated 22 percent of public wells for those systems have one or more contaminants at unsafe levels for human health.
There is no disagreement — water is a precious asset. Without water, there is no path to survival or sustainability on the planet. Cities, counties, states, industries, trees, plants, crops, animals, and individuals cannot survive without adequate water resources. In America’s overall drive to sustainability, water is one of the most critical components. Yet, America’s water infrastructure is in significant disrepair. Because it has been ignored for so long, some warn that America is entirely too vulnerable.
Although the average American is using less water, population growth has increased demand and many regions are ill-prepared to meet projected increases in water needs. The amount of available water, however, is only one part of the country’s water infrastructure problem. A rarely discussed issue is the dangers related to water contamination.
America’s drinking water infrastructure consists of approximately 2.2 million miles of underground pipes that were designed decades ago to deliver clean and safe water to millions of people. Unfortunately, that type of delivery is no longer possible in some parts of the country. Very few citizens and taxpayers focus on that because there is little attention on reports that outline clean water infractions in their home regions. Government regulations require water testing and reporting, but too few Americans see the results of testing. Recently, the U.S. received a C- in the drinking-water category of the most recent report card from the American Society for Civil Engineers (ASCE) – 2021.
ASCE estimates approximately 240,000 water main breaks occur each year, creating a loss of more than 2 trillion gallons of treated drinking water annually. Additionally, a water main somewhere in the U.S. breaks every two minutes resulting in another 6 billion gallons of treated water lost every day across the nation. Finally, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that between 23,000 and 75,000 sanitary sewer overflow events occur each year. The sewer overflows create extremely costly and sometimes dangerous water issues.
The water purification problem is compounded even more because drinking water also is contaminated daily by industry, antiquated lead pipe delivery systems, and weakening government oversight.
Most citizens remember the shock and atrocity of the Flint, Michigan, water crisis of 2015, but few realize that during that same time water health standards were violated by other U.S. water systems serving more than 21 million people. In 2019, more than 30 million Americans lived in areas where water systems could not meet water safety standards.