Baltimore water main break is example of national water infrastructure problems

April 28th, 2009

Amy Kober, 206-213-0330 x23

Washington, DC – The water main break that flooded downtown Baltimore is an example of broader water infrastructure problems nationwide, American Rivers said today.

“Unfortunately, this disaster is part of a larger trend,” said Rebecca Wodder, president of American Rivers. “Our nation’s water infrastructure is in a serious state of disrepair. Whether it is a water main break, a failing levee, or an unsafe dam, outdated infrastructure puts lives, property, and clean water at risk.”

America’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. Global warming will only make the problem worse, bringing more floods, droughts, and waterborne diseases.

American Rivers noted the importance of providing essential repair and maintenance to existing water infrastructure, but also urged cities to embrace green solutions that are cheaper and more flexible than traditional infrastructure. In particular, cities should do more to reduce overall water consumption to lower expenses and take pressure off of strained pipes and treatment plants.

“We are at a transformational moment,” said Wodder. “It is time to bring our water infrastructure into the 21st century. Cities must embrace a modern approach to water that reduces per capita water use and integrates green solutions, recognizes changing climatic conditions, and helps ensure community safety and security.”

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. The nation’s leading river conservation organization is calling on communities big and small to adopt green infrastructure, which has three critical components:

  • Protect healthy landscapes like forests and small streams that naturally sustain clean water supplies.
  • Restore degraded landscapes like floodplains and wetlands so they can better store flood water and recharge streams and aquifers.
  • Replicate natural water systems in more urban settings, to capture rainwater for outdoor watering and other uses and prevent stormwater and sewage pollution.

“This water main break, and the water main break on Montgomery County’s River Road last December were frightening and destructive enough,” said Wodder. “We don’t need any more wake up calls. The time for smarter water infrastructure investments is now.


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About American Rivers

About American Rivers

American Rivers protects wild rivers, restores damaged rivers, and conserves clean water for people and nature. Since 1973, American Rivers has protected and restored more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and the annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers® campaign. Headquartered in Washington, DC, American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 200,000 members, supporters, and volunteers.

Rivers connect us to each other, nature, and future generations. Find your connections at AmericanRivers.org, Facebook.com/AmericanRivers, and Twitter.com/AmericanRivers.