Drinking Water Infrastructure
At Aqua, we take our responsibility to provide quality, reliable drinking water to our customers seriously — and we’ve been doing it for the last 125 years. Since the first pipe was laid in 1886, we’ve been dedicated to improving infrastructure and supply, whether it meant building reservoirs and plants to service a growing community, or replacing pipe to strengthen aging systems.
The condition of our nation’s infrastructure has been a hot topic lately, but at Aqua, infrastructure has always been a top priority. That’s why every year Aqua invests millions of dollars to improve its plants, tanks, distribution systems and other infrastructure. In fact, in 2011 alone, Aqua invested more than $330 million in capital to grow and improve our facilities across the United States. Aqua’s infrastructure is a complex network designed to deliver quality water to homes and businesses. A lot goes on behind the scenes to get water from rivers, lakes, streams and wells to your tap.
The term “infrastructure” is commonly used to refer to our nation’s system of roads, bridges, utilities (e.g., water, wastewater, gas, electric) and other public works. Drinking water infrastructure includes the physical components that comprise a water utility’s source of supply, treatment, storage, transmission and distribution systems.
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) 2009 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure gave an overall grade of “D” to our nation’s infrastructure. In the drinking water category, the grade was a “D-“, which was a decline from the “D” received in 2001.
A water utility’s distribution system includes all of the underground pipes used to deliver water to customers. The United States drinking water infrastructure includes more than 700,000 miles of pipe — more than four times longer than the National Highway System.
According to recent statistics compiled by the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. uses 408 billion gallons of water each day for all uses (water supply, irrigation, power generation, industry). To supply water to their communities, many cities continue to rely on pipe that has reached, or is approaching, the end of its useful life.
The useful lifeof a pipe can be defined as the point at which the pipe can no longer be expected to provide reliable service in an efficient manner. For example, frequent water main breaks that interrupt service to customers, or a large number of leaking pipes that waste water, are two indications that those pipes might be nearing the end of their useful lives. Age alone does not define the useful life of a pipe. That is, the oldest pipe does not necessarily require the most immediate attention. Instead, water utilities must carefully assess their system to target pipes for replacement or rehabilitation that would provide the most benefit in terms of improved reliability, reduced leakage, and so forth.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regularly surveys water utilities throughout the U.S. to assess the water system infrastructure needs of the nation. The most recently published survey in 2007 estimated a total water system infrastructure (source, treatment plant, pipes, etc.) need of $335 billion for the next 20-year period. Pipe accounted for $200 billion, or 60 percent of the total need.