Sunday, February 5, 2012

America's Trillion Dollar Leaky-Pipe Bill by Peter S. Green

America's got a plumbing problem. The country's aging water infrastructure is leaking, and the plumber just came in with an estimate: $1 trillion, payable over the next 25 years.

That's the figure given by American Water Works Association, an industry training and research group, to ensure clean and abundant water in a country that's grown to expect it. Unfortunately the bank account needed to pay this bill -- government spending and bonds backed by taxes and utility bills -- is running dry.

What America needs is a new bank to finance its aging pipes and more incentives to reuse waste water, according to a report released this month by Ceres, the Johnson Foundation at Wingspread and American Rivers. They call for a government-funded infrastructure bank that leverages private capital to bring the U.S. water system into the 21st century.

Right now America's leaky pipes and broken taps waste about 6 billion gallons a day, or 14 percent of America's treated water. These leaks that can be fixed for far less than it costs to add new capacity, or address other forms of waste -- such as the 4.8 billion gallons of potable water flushed down toilets every day.

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