Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Editorial: Clean Water Isn't Free, and the Bill Is Coming Due

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Editorial: Clean Water Isn't Free, and the Bill Is Coming Due

Article excerpt

Across the nation, the story is the same: Critical water infrastructure is failing at an alarming rate. Broken mains, aging water treatment plants and failing pumping stations all need to be replaced or repaired at a far more rapid rate than budgets currently allow.

"We're reaching the end of the life cycle of some of the most critical assets we've got," said Bill Stowe, CEO and general manager of Des Moines Waterworks, in an Associated Press article discussing the slow-boiling crisis.

"At stake is the continued availability of clean, cheap drinking water a public health achievement that has fueled the nation's growth for generations and that most Americans take for granted," wrote AP reporter Ryan J. Foley in that story.

How bad is it? The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency believes an investment of $384 billion by 2030 will be necessary to maintain the nation's existing drinking water systems.

The industry-backed American Water Works Association thinks the cost will be even greater when necessary growth is accounted for. The association puts the tab at closer to $1 trillion over 25 years.

St. Louis is no stranger to this problem. Just in recent months, water main breaks caused electrical outages and shutdowns at parts of Barnes-Jewish Hospital, shut down Interstate 70 and precipitated several boil-water advisories for regional water customers.

A report by the local Metro Water Infrastructure Partnership released last year suggests our region needs to roughly double its pace of replacing aging pipelines to get to the industry standard of a 100-year replacement cycle, at a cost of an additional $34 million a year.

"That's the key that Americans have to understand: If they want this system, they are going to have to be willing to finance it, to pay for it," Greg DiLoreto, past president of the American Society of Civil Engineers, told Mr. Foley.

Failing to do so "risks reversing the environmental, public health and economic gains of the last three decades," Mr. DiLoreto's group has long argued.

The problem is convincing water customers they need to pay more a lot more to keep the water flowing and prevent expensive but random water main breaks. …

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