The very fabric of American society is crumbling. No, that’s not a metaphor for the state of civil unrest the country is currently experiencing. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gives the nation's infrastructure a D+ grade. So regardless of who is elected president next month, the top priority should be a comprehensive overhaul of the nation’s infrastructure system, which includes buildings and water infrastructure.
Per ASCE, many of the nation’s one million miles of pipe were laid in the early to mid-20th century, with a lifespan between 75 and 100 years. I know this comes as no surprise to you — our readers — but we are nearing the end of that life expectancy. There are an estimated 240,000 water main breaks per year in the U.S., wasting more than 2 trillion gallons of treated drinking water. According to the American Water Works Association, an estimated $1 trillion is necessary to maintain and expand service to meet demands over the next 25 years.
Some cities aren’t waiting on a federal program to address the issue. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced a Lead Service Line Replacement Program just last month. The voluntary program, designed to provide assistance to residents who wish to replace their lead service lines, will prioritize those who are low-income. The Equity Lead Service Line Replacement Program will provide complete lead service line replacement for eligible low-income residents at no cost as long as they meet the requirements, while the Homeowner-Initiated Lead Service Line Replacement Program is for homeowners that want to hire a contractor and remove the existing lead service line on their property. Under this program, the city will waive fees for the project, which could amount to a savings of over $3,000. The city will connect the new service line to the water main and install a free water meter upon completion of the replacement.
“Chicago’s lead service lines are a legacy issue we need to start meaningfully confronting by moving in the right direction in a responsible way,” Lightfoot said in a statement. “The new Lead Service Line Replacement Program stands as our equity-forward approach to providing residents the support they need, all while providing a foundation to continuously building on our commitment to addressing this important issue for the long term.”
A national overhaul of existing infrastructure presents numerous opportunities for plumbing pros — construction projects will create work for engineers and contractors alike, which, in turn, leads to an increased economic benefit to the country through increased employment.
We as an industry need to continue to broadcast the importance of water quality and water infrastructure to our elected government officials — and to the general public — until more positive change occurs. With that in mind, this election matters. So make sure to research the candidates and their positions on issues such as an infrastructure replacement plan. Then get out and do your civic duty: Vote.