Manhattan water main break is example of national water infrastructure problems


A 140 year old cast-iron water main broke today in Lower Manhattan, flooding buildings, up to four feet deep in some places.

We’ve seen a number of water main breaks in the last several months (Washington, DCBaltimore). There’s a trend here: our nation’s water infrastructure– our pipes, wastewater and drinking water systems, dams, and levees — is in a serious state of disrepair.

The American Society of Civil Engineers gave a D-minus grade to the water and wastewater systems that protect Americans’ health and safety — the lowest grade of any infrastructure category. Climate change will only make the problem worse, bringing more floods, droughts, and waterborne diseases.

It’s critical that we provide essential repair and maintenance to existing water infrastructure, but cities also must embrace green solutions that are cheaper and more flexible than traditional infrastructure. In particular, cities should do more to reduce overall water consumption by implementing water efficiency solutions.

American Rivers helped secure over $6 billion in economic recovery funds for clean water and water infrastructure improvements, with 20 percent dedicated for water efficiency and green infrastructure projects. We’ll be reporting about some of the successful projects in the coming months.

Bottom line: we can’t afford to take clean water for granted. We must invest more, and more wisely.