Lead pipes have a lifespan of about 75 years — and America's lead pipe are about 75 years old. 3,000 American municipalities have 1.2m miles of lead pipe, and it's all overdue for replacement, but there's no plan in hand to do so, and any workable plan will cost about $1 trillion to execute.
Children poisoned by lead grow up with cognitive deficits and physical disabilities.
Cities across America have faced cuts to their infrastructure spending, accompanied by cuts to public health surveillance that could detect early signs of lead poisoning, and cuts to water-quality inspections that would sound early alarms on contamination.
All of this is driving water prices up, with no end in sight.
Over the next few decades, water prices are anticipated to increase to four times current levels. Prices could go higher if cities look to private providers for water services, who have a tendency to charge higher rates than public providers. These pressures on water systems, combined with the fact that water is a vital necessity to sustain life, place this issue at the forefront of 21st century infrastructure challenges. While studies have found that Americans are willing to pay more to maintain and ensure access to water resources, this willingness to pay may conflict with their fundamental ability to pay for water.
The report notes that water prices across the country have risen by about 41 percent since 2010, and if this particular trend continues, 35.6 percent of American households will not be able to afford water services within the next five years.
In short, the water affordability crisis is not something that is a few decades off, or even a single decade off: More than 40 million American citizens could find themselves unable to afford water in the next five years if both stagnating incomes and increasing water prices stay on their current trajectories.
America's Coming Water Affordability Crisis
[Farron Cousins/Naked Capitalism]
(Image: Dirty water spilling from a bottle, Ildar Sagdejev, CC-BY-SA)