Most Americans take the water systems that bring clean water to and from their homes and businesses for granted. They turn on the tap and flush the toilet without thinking twice about where that water came from or where it will go.
But could you imagine a day without water? Without safe, reliable water and wastewater service?
A day without water means no water comes out of your tap to brush your teeth. When you flush the toilet, nothing happens. Firefighters have no water to put out fires; farmers couldn’t water their crops; and doctors couldn’t wash their hands. A single nationwide day without water service would put $43.5 billion of economic activity at risk. In just eight days, a national water service stoppage would put nearly 2 million jobs in jeopardy.
A day without water is nothing short of a humanitarian, political, and economic crisis.
While unimaginable for most of us, there are communities that have lived without water. From man-made tragedies in Flint, Michigan, to water scarcity issues in Central California, to wastewater runoff in the Great Lakes, water issues abound. There are millions of Americans living in communities that never had the infrastructure to provide safe water service, relying on bottled water and septic systems each day.
America can do better.
The problems that face our drinking water and wastewater systems are multi-faceted. The infrastructure is aging and in need of investment, having gone underfunded for decades. Drought, flooding, and climate change stress water and wastewater systems. Although these regional challenges will require locally-driven solutions, reinvestment in our water must be a national priority.
The good news is that the American people are already widely supportive of increased investment in nation’s water infrastructure. Above any other pressing political issue, Americans name rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure as the issue they most want our elected officials to address. Americans view water infrastructure investment as an even greater priority than infrastructure generally, with 82 percent of voters saying that they view the issue as either important or very important. No other issue facing our public officials enjoys such a broad consensus.
Americans across the regional and political spectrum know that investing in our drinking water and wastewater systems is key. While neglecting our nation’s water systems poses grave health and economic dangers, the benefits of reinvestment are great. If we close the existing water infrastructure investment gap, the national economy would gain $220 billion in annual economic activity and 1.3 million jobs.
There is no other option. Public officials at the local, state, and national level must prioritize investment in water. Public private partnerships will play an important role in building the drinking water and wastewater systems of tomorrow. Innovation will allow us to build modern, energy efficient, and environmentally advanced systems that will sustain communities for generations to come.
We need to prioritize building stronger water and wastewater systems now so no community in America has to imagine living a day without water.
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