Taking Water for Granted: How America’s Infrastructure Continues to Fail When it’s Needed the Most
At one time, the United States stood on top of the world in everything modern civilizations are measured in. Infrastructure, technology, public health, you name it, the United States was a top contender for the title. This was all the way back in the 1950’s where the country capitalized on the post-war industrial boom to maximize growth and the impression on the world. Since then, however, infrastructure has continued to decline to the point where currently, the United States ranked thirteenth in the world in 2019 according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report, down from fifth in 2002. In part, a lot of these problems are due to limited allocation of tax funds to have preventative measures for infrastructure issues rather than actively repairing problems at their source. The biggest problem the United States will continue to face as time develops is none other than lead pipes.
Lead piping was thought to be safe when originally used in the United States, but as more and more studies came out about the life impacting effects of lead, Congress banned the usage of lead piping in 1986. Despite this ban, many households here in America still have lead piping, resulting in an estimated 15 to 22 million Americans still using, cooking, and drinking water from the same pipes Congress banned. Additionally, the EPA estimates that there is approximately 6 to 10 million lead service lines currently in the country. Recently, the infrastructure bill that passed includes $15 billion over five years to replace the lead pipes and service lines across the United States. Although this is a great accomplishment, the question then becomes, how will this be done, and will the deadline actually be met?
Over the past decade, the United States has faced a slew of water-based issues, resulting in millions of Americans truly not knowing where their next source of drinkable water will come. The issue first started with Flint, where the water there is still not safe to drink straight from the tap and now, a new contender has entered the problem. Jackson, Mississippi has been under a boil water order since July, but in many instances that have blown up on social media, boiling tea-colored water won’t necessarily remove the impurities contaminating the tap water. The issue at Jackson was caused by existing standing water system failures coupled with recent flooding and broken pumps at the main water plant that left around 150,000 people without water. In recent interviews, people have reported needing to use bottled water for their daily needs such as brushing their teeth, cooking, and bathing since although the city has deemed the water safe, the citizens don’t think it is truly usable.
The question then becomes this: with the United States’ infrastructure continuing to be stressed to its limits every year and with an increasing population, what does the future have to hold for the United States and its infrastructure’s security? Time and time again, problems have shown their ugly faces when it is least desirable (Texas’ power outage during both heat waves and snowstorms, California’s grid stress, water problems, etc.) and for many people living here in the States, the uncertainty this causes will only continue to create problems.