J. D. Heyes
March 5, 2012
With wages stagnant or declining, gasoline and electricity prices on the rise and food prices steadily increasing, the last thing American families need is another increase in a basic necessity. Yet, a new report says that’s exactly what you’re going to get: Water bills that will likely double or triple over the next few years, thanks to the nation’s crumbling water system infrastructure.
A new study and report by the American Water Works Association (AWWA) entitled, Buried No Longer: Confronting America’s Water Infrastructure Challenge, improving and expanding the nation’s underground water systems will cost upwards of $1 trillionover the next 25 years. And, as is always the case, water system users are going to get soaked with the bill.
What does that mean in real dollars and cents? Right now the average family household pays about $400 a year. The fixes that are needed over the next quarter century mean that bills could rise anywhere from $300-$550 a year, meaning water bills could skyrocket to $900 a year or more.
Experts will tell you that investing now, rather than later, is a good idea and cheaper in the long run. But that’s hard to swallow for wage earners whose incomes have been stuck in neutral or worse, declining for the past decade. Add to that a raft of new tax hikes and cuts in benefits, and hard-hit Americans are in no mood to fork out even more money in new fees and rate increases.
But that doesn’t change the fact that, without improvements, the nation’s supply and delivery of fresh drinking water is in peril. In fact, the AWWA believes spending to fix the pipes and other infrastructure is likely to rise from $13 billion a year today to $30 billion in 2040.
“Delaying the investment can result in degrading water service, increasing water service disruptions, and increasing expenditures for emergency repairs. Ultimately we will have to face the need to “catch up” with past deferred investments, and the more we delay the harder the job will be when the day of reckoning comes,” said the report.
Not all of the expense of this upgrade will come from higher water bills, though much of it will. Some communities, the report said, will be double-tapped, so to speak.
“Other communities will need to collect significant “impact” or development fees to meet the needs of a growing population. Numerous communities will need to invest for replacement and raise funds to accommodate growth at the same time. Investments that may be required to meet new standards for drinking water quality will add even more to the bill,” it said.
Higher prices for everything
Is this information new? Why, all of a sudden, is water infrastructure such a big concern? Well, nothing about this is new. In fact, the AWWA warned about the nation’s crumbling water infrastructure, and the need to replace, in a report 10 years ago.
“Like many of the roads, bridges, and other public assets on which the country relies, most of our buried drinking water infrastructure was built 50 or more years ago, in the post-World War II era of rapid demographic change and economic growth. In some older urban areas, many water mains have been in the ground for a century or longer,” the report said.
“Given its age, it comes as no surprise that a large proportion of US water infrastructure is approaching, or has already reached, the end of its useful life.”
As unemployment remains stubbornly high at about 9 percent, as gasoline prices rise to nearly $3.75 a gallon on average nationwide, and as wages continue to remain stagnant or decline, you and your family are about to take on another cost increase: higher water bills.
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This article was posted: Monday, March 5, 2012 at 3:57 am