A new EPA survey shows that the US will need $384 billion for drinking water infrastructure by 2030. The survey, released yesterday, accounts for the needs of 73,400 water systems across the country, including American Indian and Alaska Native Village water systems. The EPA estimates that the billions of dollars will be needed to continue to provide safe drinking water to 297 million Americans.
All over the world, there have already been conflicts over water. Even in the United States, the issue is becoming more prevalent. California, Texas, and recently Georgia and Tennessee, are among the US states that have already experienced tensions over access to water.
Last year, the US experienced the widest-spread drought since the 1950s. And an article released in 2010, Peak Water Limits to Freshwater Withdrawal and Use, by scientists from the Pacific Institute, stated that “we are very close to using much of the renewable supply and in some regions we are well past the point of peak ecological water – where the environmental damage of human use of water exceeds the benefits of that water use.”
One of the authors of the study, Dr. Peter Gleick wrote a piece for the Huffington Post in March, discussing some of the most recent water disputes across the US. Gleick believe that the “risks of conflicts [over water] will increase, even here in the United States, and not just in the water-scarce arid west.”
And there are other factors at play besides a changing climate and more severe weather events, which are depleting America’s drinkable water supplies. A recent survey of fracking and water availability conducted by Ceres documents the natural gas industry’s appropriation of precious fresh water supplies in already water-stressed states, only to contaminate the water with chemicals and dump it back into the earth, thereby contaminating people’s drinking water supplies.
While the EPA’s Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs Survey and Assessment does not take such factors into account, and focuses more on the aging infrastructure, it does point out that “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.”
“A safe and adequate supply of drinking water in our homes, schools and businesses is essential to the health and prosperity of every American. This is a major issue that must be addressed so that American families continue to have the access they need to clean and healthy water sources,” says Bob Perciasepe, Acting Administrator of the EPA.
Alisha is a writer and researcher for Ring of Fire.