American History

Water, water everywhere! (And not a drop to drink?)


Western droughts have proven serious threats this year, with cities in the Midwest rationing to ensure the wells don’t run dry. But it seems water – and how to properly get, treat and distribute it – has long been a cause for concern.

Thirty years ago, American City & County reported on the nation’s water infrastructure crisis. By 1983 reports, capital spending (by the then 9,800 water systems serving 1,000 or more residents) was expected to hit $7 billion by 1990 – more than double 1981’s figure of $3.24 billion.

Spending on treatment plants was slated to increase 53.8 percent (to $1.2 billion) by 1985, up from $728 million in 1980.  Expenditures on equipment were anticipated to increase 50 percent, to $300 million. So, you know, pocket change by today’s numbers.

According to a present-day report from the American Society of Civil Engineers, water infrastructure is crumbling. Spending in 2010 - $36.4 billion – is expected to increase to $51.7 billion in 2040. Not that the increase will do us much good, as spending for infrastructure falls far short of the actual fiscal need. The gap between spending and need was $54.8 billion in 2010. If projected estimates prove true, that gap will grow to $143.7 billion by 2040.

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What's American History?

It highlights the development of U.S. local and state government.


Erin Greer

While most journalism graduates would jump at a chance to chase down the latest story, Erin Greer ran, screaming, from the opportunity. A long-time performer and PR professional, Erin was used to...
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