Water Shouldn’t Make Americans Sick — it Will Cost $105 Billion to Ensure it Doesn’t

American Rivers’ President and CEO, Wm. Robert Irvin, warns of the importance of federal investment and preservation of national clean water safeguards.

Image courtesy of The Hill

This article originally appeared in The Hill on July 19, 2018

Franklin Square, located in the heart of downtown Washington, is the District’s oldest protected park. It was set aside by the federal government in 1832 to protect a spring that supplied drinking water to the White House. Despite this protection, contaminated water continued to pose health risks for Washingtonians, including President Abraham Lincoln’s beloved son Willie, who died in the White House in 1862 from typhoid contracted from contaminated drinking water.

Today Washington’s drinking water is generally safe, but the recent drinking water advisory highlighted the vulnerabilities in our water systems locally and nationwide. This latest incident, resulting from a loss of pressure at a pumping station, along with reports of toxic algae outbreaks in drinking water sources from Oregon to Florida is a wake up call: We need to invest more in the nation’s water infrastructure, including our rivers, and we must uphold federal clean water safeguards.

The American Society of Civil Engineers gives the nation’s drinking water infrastructure a D grade. There are 240,000 water main breaks across the country each year, and 6 billion gallons of treated water are lost each year to leaking pipes. An estimated $105 billion is needed to upgrade our country’s drinking water and wastewater systems. We also need to protect and restore our rivers. Nationally, rivers provide more than two-thirds of our drinking water supplies. Healthy rivers, wetlands and floodplains are natural infrastructure, vital to our safety and economy.

While the quality of our nation’s drinking water remains high for the most part, there are still glaring outliers such as the lead contamination in the water supply for Flint, Michigan. Water warnings are popping up across the country this summer.

Salem, the capital of Oregon, was under an advisory for weeks in June because of a toxic algae outbreak in its water supply. Children under six years old, pregnant women, nursing mothers and adults with compromised immune systems were told not to drink the water. While there are multiple reasons for the algae outbreak, one likely cause is industrial logging practices and the resulting pollution from clearcutting, chemicals and fertilizers.

In Florida, algae from Lake Okeechobee is spurring concerns for human health, fisheries and the economy. Fueled by phosphorous and nitrogen in fertilizer running off farmlands, the algae can be toxic if consumed, causes skin and respiratory irritation, and can be fatal to dogs that swim in or drink the water.

The lesson from Oregon and Florida is clear: What we do to the land impacts our rivers and water supplies.

In Ohio, Gov. John Kasich (R) recently signed an executive order to toughen control of fertilizer pollution — an important step — stemming from the algae outbreak in Lake Erie in 2014 that left 500,000 people without drinking water for three days.

While state action is important, it is critical that we increase federal investment and preserve national clean water safeguards. In addition to supporting water infrastructure funding, Congress must uphold the Clean Water Rule, which protects small streams and wetlands — the drinking water sources for one in three Americans — from pollution.

As was recognized 186 years ago when Franklin Square was protected, water is life. It is essential to our health, our economy and our future. The warning signs this summer are a call to action for better clean water protections nationwide.

19 responses to “Water Shouldn’t Make Americans Sick — it Will Cost $105 Billion to Ensure it Doesn’t

  1. We need to follow the example of the Water Protectors, and stand against the capitalist treachery and aggression of the fossil fuel industry. Native Americans understand that the Earth is a live entity. Water is the Blood of Life.

  2. Providing “clean and pure” drinking water to It’s citizens is a MUST if a society is to be considered “developed!” The only reason why Americans do not have full access to “clean and pure” drinking water is because of a lack of will on behalf of It’s leaders. Time to place leaders into positions of power who Truly Care about the health and welfare of it’s citizens…otherwise stop boosting about how great a country we are, if we cannot even properly care for It’s populations!

  3. Fresh water, clean air and rich soil are life. We must do everything within our power to protect these resources.

  4. WATER IS A NATURAL HUMAN RIGHT AND DESERVES ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTIONS FOR ALL LIFE. NOT DOING SO, IS CRIMINAL GREED. CORPORATIONS & GOVERNMENT DENIAL & POLLUTION SHOULD BE CHARGED WITH ENVIRONMENTAL CRIMES & SUED FOR BILLIONS.

  5. We can’t even drink the water here in San Tan Valley, AZ!
    It is So Bad!!
    It smells like sewage and rotten eggs, It makes us itch from bathing and causes rashes all over our bodies. We don’t even use it for cooking.
    People just moved here not knowing about the water and they’re selling they’re homes as fast as they bought them because of the water issues.
    Water is Life!
    !!! PROTECT OUT WATER!!!
    HELP US GET CLEAN WATER IN SAN TAN VALLEY, AZ!

  6. What a FU…D UP COUNTRY!!! WHAT USED TO B PUBLIC SERVENTS R NOW JUST MOUTHPIECES FOR BIG CORPORATIONS IN THE RAPE OF AMERICA!!! MORE MONEY FOR SOROS, KOCH BOYS, ELI LILLY, MONSANTO/BAYER, ETC. ETC. AS AMERICA SLOWLY PERISHES!!!

    1. There are public servants who are working hard to protect our natural resources. We must support those who cherish this land.

  7. This is no difficult. Americans and all living things need clean water! There must be protection for rivers. There is no use or need for people, animals, plants, and ocean life to wallow in green algae or sewage nor industrial and agricultural runoff. Our water supply MUST stay clean and not polluted by industry.
    Also stormwater must be redirected in ways that will make the water from severe weather not a threat.
    We have our work in front of us and we need to begin … NOW!

  8. it is critical that we increase federal investment and preserve national clean water safeguards. In addition to supporting water infrastructure funding, Congress must uphold the Clean Water Rule, which protects small streams and wetlands — the drinking water sources for one in three Americans — from pollution.

    water is life. It is essential to our health, our economy and our future. The warning signs this summer are a call to action for better clean water protections nationwide.

  9. it is critical that we increase federal investment and preserve national clean water safeguards. In addition to supporting water infrastructure funding, Congress must uphold the Clean Water Rule, which protects small streams and wetlands — the drinking water sources for one in three Americans — from pollution.

    water is life. It is essential to our health, our economy and our future. The warning signs this summer are a call to action for better clean water protections nationwide.

  10. How can we as a highly intelligent species turn our backs on every living thing? Including our children and all future generations of life . As the worlds population has grown , so has the pollutants.Even more disturbing is the acceptance of this “New Norm” and mindset. Want easy proof ? Simply peek over any bridge and look down its banks. Walk the PARKS , paddle and look closely at our scenic Rivers , ….or simply stop and take a good hard look along any road , street , ditch . They all eventually make their way into our water systems.

    STOP…..and do your part by supporting the ones fighting for Clean water , air , and soil !
    Do “The Right Thing” and stand up for Protection of Rivers , streams, lakes, and future generations to have access to life giving clean water .

    Support the Clean water rule , and uprade wastewater plants .

    sincerely,

    Ralph”Riverwolf”Webb
    >>>————————–>

    1. We all utilize the wastewater treatment plants. They are critical in the process of keeping our water clean. This process is expensive but toilets will be flushed everyday. We must support community efforts to keep these systems functioning efficiently.

  11. It’s not only the drinking water, it is also the shower stall/bathtub water that is contaminated as well. Our skin is at risk, the same as our internal organs, from ingesting the filth. We need 500 % more water watch groups in every state. Not enough of us yet to get the job done 100%.

  12. $105 Billion is NOT too much for Trump’s budget for keeping safe drinking water for Americans. He blows so much money on corporate subsidies and bailouts, but we don’t matter enough? We need to push and keep pushing for Congress to act on this IMPERATIVE.

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