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Why We Need to Start Investing in Water Systems Now

Our drinking water and wastewater systems provide invaluable services that we often only think about when they’re gone. When recent disasters like hurricanes in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico knock out drinking water and wastewater service, it quickly becomes clear how critical water is to our health, safety and economy. But across the county, our drinking and wastewater infrastructure is aging, overtaxed and in need of repair. This puts all of us at risk.

A common cause

The good news is that reinvestment is one of the few issues that can bring Americans together. And there are strong economic incentives to doing so. Value of Water Campaign polling shows that more than 80 percent of Americans agree that the federal government should prioritize investment in water infrastructure. This is a larger percentage than those that say we should invest in roads and bridges or other hot-button policy issues like immigration or tax reform.

Creating an economic incentive

While these systems are invaluable, we have tried to quantify some the economic benefits of investment, or conversely, the cost of inaction. If we close the current gap and invest the billions our water systems need to be brought to a state of good repair, we can create over $220 billion in economic activity and 1.3 million jobs, sustained annually over a ten-year period.

On the other hand, if we fail to act, we put our national economy at great risk. A one-day interruption of water service nationally would cost $22.5 billion in GDP. An eight-day interruption would amount to a one percent loss in annual GDP. This is why it is so critical to invest in these systems now. We cannot afford to risk our nation’s health and economic future. We must take action before the next natural disaster, before more systems fail, so we have strong resilient systems for generations to come.

Radhika Fox, CEO, U.S. Water Alliance, [email protected]

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