U.S. safe drinking water holds a price tag - $384 billion

2013-08-02T10:57:00Z U.S. safe drinking water holds a price tag - $384 billionby Denisse J. González nwitimes.com
August 02, 2013 10:57 am  • 

Be frugal and drink slowly.

All 73,400 water systems in the U.S. must be restored to provide some 300 million Americans with safe drinking water through the year 2030, according to a study release in this June by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,.

“The nation’s water systems have entered a rehabilitation and replacement era in which much of the existing infrastructure has reached or is approaching the end of its useful life,” said EPA Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe.

Improvements for the 20-year project are estimated to cost up to $384 billion.

Illinois will require more than $18 billion in water infrastructure restoration as the fifth most water demanding state in the nation, behind New York, California, Texas and Wisconsin.

The largest upgrades are needed in transmission and distribution projects with an approximate cost of $247.5 billion over the next two decades. Most pipelines will need to be replaced as they have deteriorated with age.

“The projects are critical to the delivery of safe drinking water and can help ensure compliance with many regulatory requirements,” according to EPA officials. “The rate at which water mains require replacement or rehabilitation varies greatly by pipe material, age of the pipe, soil characteristics, weather conditions and construction methods.”

Illinois drinking water across the state currently meets most of the state and federal requirements, according to Lisa Bonnet, EPA interim director.

“Freshwater inland lakes and reservoirs provide our nation with 70 percent of its drinking water and supply water for industry, irrigation, and hydropower,” Bonnet stated.

Although restoration may bring cleaner drinking water to our faucets, this does not guarantee the supply of water, with aquifers that supply well water diminished in many area.

Many of these underground water sources continue to see lower levels as aquifers are more heavily used and as consumption increases. Last year, the water level in the Ogallala Aquifer – a main water source for the Great Plains – dropped by 150 feet. Water conservation is becoming a major concern in many areas.

“Efficient use of water helps reduce the demands on our water supplies, as well as on both drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, as using less water means moving and treating less water,” said the EPA.

From distribution, to treatment, to water storage, grants can be sought by all 50 states and Puerto Rico for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund. But the less water people waste, “the less states take from the nation’s reservoirs,” said Perciasepe.

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