Threat to Water Utilities: Aging Infrastructure
Philadelphia has recently been hit with proof that its aging water infrastructure has some serious problems, according to Philly.com.
A 100-year-old water main broke open, flooding streets and homes, and causing evacuations throughout the city. Officials, however, can’t pinpoint the exact cause of the break. But Mayor Michael Nutter has been working with other officials to proactively request more money through grants or other sources from the federal government for infrastructure projects.
In the article, Nutter explains the city does the best it can with the resources it has to inspect and improve the water mains, but with more financing officials would be able to do more. Philadelphia’s water system is about 70 years old and the water main that broke has been used since 1916. The city is raising water rates by 28.5% to cover the necessary repairs as well as improvements to the aging system.
A recent report by engineering and consulting firm Black & Veatch identifies aging water infrastructures as top concerns for U.S. water utilities, according to an article published by the Association of California Water Agencies. The report, Strategic Directions in the U.S. Water Utility Industry, cites aging infrastructure as the most crucial, immediate concern.
As the Environmental Leader explains, the consulting firm asked industry personnel in counties and municipalities to rank their top concerns on a scale from one to five. Aging water infrastructures ranked 4.59. Only 26.7% of those participating believe current funding will sufficiently cover the expenses for infrastructure projects. Consumers will likely pay more for water in the future to fund infrastructure issues.
“Utility leaders are continuously challenged to make the most of limited budgets – a situation truer today than just five years ago,” Cindy Wallis-Lage, president of Black & Veatch’s global water business, says in a statement.
The Environmental Leader mentions smart water meters as a way for utilities to improve efficiency and lessen the strain on infrastructure. According to the Environmental Leader, a report published last year by Pike Research projects that about 31.8 million smart meters will be installed by 2016 at a cost of about $4.2 billion.
In a recent article, Greentech Media says smart metering is a way to prevent massive water loss, considering much of the “world’s water infrastructure is nearly a century old.” The article points out that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) puts unmetered water loss at about 6 billion gallons of water per year.
Water loss is largely motivating the increase in technologies to prevent and detect leaks as well as to identify other system problems, including degrading systems. Besides smart meters, companies like IBM are using software, hardware and analytical information to employ technologies that monitor water.
The EPA devotes a section of its website to water infrastructure issues, covering financing, maintenance and green design. As the EPA explains, water infrastructure management is one of the top challenges for our water systems. At a time when our water infrastructure is aging, the EPA recommends green infrastructure as one approach.
Because many of our communities can’t afford extensive infrastructure improvements, green infrastructure may be a more affordable option. With green infrastructure, vegetation and soil as opposed to pipes are used to manage rainwater. Not only does green infrastructure manage stormwater, it can also help alleviate flooding and manage air quality.
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