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In part because of an aging water infrastructure, approximately , water main breaks, which can allow contaminants to enter the drinking water supply, occur in the United States each year 9, Public investment in improved drinking water infrastructure is critically important to protecting public health. Health effects from loss of water service or low water pressure might be mitigated by public health involvement in fostering household, community, and interagency preparedness, and developing communication strategies that will reach the majority of citizens in a timely manner.

Studies in other countries have identified an association between low pressure events in water distribution systems and gastrointestinal illness; the aging water infrastructure in the United States might increase the risk for similar health effects during main breaks or water-related emergencies that cause loss of pressure throughout the water distribution system.

Fracta Helping Drinking Water Utilities Address Water Main Replacement Challenge

Public health agencies might help to prevent or mitigate the health effects from future water emergencies through efforts to improve community and household preparedness and to develop and implement effective communication strategies to reach diverse communities before and during such emergencies. Water system B is owned by community B and normally supplies all of community B's water. Water system C is owned by a nearby community and normally supplies three fourths of community A's water and is the designated backup supplier for community B in the event of a water shortage.

Periods are approximate. Alternate Text: The figure above shows the timeline of events during an extended water loss emergency in January in two Alabama communities.

Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure

Sub-freezing overnight low temperatures caused many utility water mains and residential water pipes to break. The resulting systemic water loss and related mechanical failures forced water utilities to cut off service to most households in the two communities. Standard errors were adjusted for clustering by household, and finite population corrections were applied. Because the rare disease assumption is met for AGI overall prevalence 7. CDC recommendations for public health agency involvement in water emergency preparedness. Develop notification procedures between agencies, utilities, and associations including up-to-date rosters.

Identify all institutions e. Assess protocols and interagency responses through periodic drills and exercises. Identify vulnerable populations and provide for their aid during water shortages. Develop a tiered hierarchy of preferred emergency sources of potable water e. Specify proper procedures and equipment for treating, transporting, and distributing potable water. Identify options for providing the community with nonpotable water during longer-term shortages with a clear distinction in packaging from potable sources. Provide draft language for water emergencies and advisories e.


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Use modes of communication that are locally preferred and effective e. Provide targeted emergency messages for key facilities such as medical facilities, schools, and businesses. Increase emphasis on the need for a minimum 3-day supply of potable water for emergencies.

In Conclusion

Supply information on how to protect pipes and identify vulnerabilities to freezing, targeting rural areas that lack building codes and owners of vacation homes who might not be present to detect burst pipes. Evaluate effectiveness of current emergency preparedness campaigns e. Provide guidance and training to ensure that health-care facilities, schools, and businesses know how to maintain their operations to protect the public's health during a loss of water service.

Consider developing tools and templates or sample emergency plans that can be downloaded from the public health agency's website and adapted to individual facilities. Make these available to all institutions, regardless of whether a public health agency normally oversees their operations. Use of trade names and commercial sources is for identification only and does not imply endorsement by the U. Department of Health and Human Services.

CDC is not responsible for the content of pages found at these sites. This conversion might result in character translation or format errors in the HTML version. An original paper copy of this issue can be obtained from the Superintendent of Documents, U. Contact GPO for current prices. Skip directly to search Skip directly to A to Z list Skip directly to site content. Protecting People. Search The CDC.

Aging water infrastructure in the United States | Deloitte Insights

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The Aging Water Infrastructure—Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Weekend Reading

What is already known on this topic? What is added by this report? What are the implications for public health practice? CDC recommendations for public health agency involvement in water emergency preparedness Develop a water emergency response protocol Develop notification procedures between agencies, utilities, and associations including up-to-date rosters. Establish a prioritization of facilities during water shortages.

Develop a water distribution plan Identify vulnerable populations and provide for their aid during water shortages. Develop a community communications toolkit for water emergencies Provide draft language for water emergencies and advisories e. Provide guidance for household preparedness Increase emphasis on the need for a minimum 3-day supply of potable water for emergencies. Most utilities are just now beginning to face significant investments for infrastructure replacement. Indeed, it would have been economically inefficient to make large replacement investments before now.

The utilities we studied are well managed and have made the right decisions. But the bills are coming due now, and they loom large. If water treatment plants, pumps, etc. Demographic shifts are a significant factor in the economics of reinvestment.


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  • In some older cities, the per-capita replacement value of mains is more than three times higher than the average in this sample due to population declines since By , the average utility in the sample will have to spend about three-and-a-half times as much on pipe replacement due to wear as it spends today. Even so, the average utility also will spend three times as much on repairs in that year as it spends today, as the pipes get older and more prone to breakage. The water utilities studied concurrently face the need to replace infrastructure and upgrade treatment plants to comply with a number of regulations under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

    Many municipalities also face significant needs for investments in wastewater infrastructure and compliance. This concurrent demand significantly increases the financial challenge they face. These household impact figures do not include compliance with new regulations or the cost of infrastructure replacement and compliance for wastewater. Because of demographic changes, rate increases will fall disproportionately on the poor, intensifying the challenge that many utilities face keeping water affordable to their customers.

    There are important roles at all levels of government. Utilities and Local Governments — Although the AWWA analysis has looked at the infrastructure issue in the aggregate, many key issues must be addressed at the local utility level. Utilities should develop a comprehensive local strategy that includes: Assessing the condition of the drinking water system infrastructure.

    Strengthening research and development. Working with the public to increase awareness of the challenge ahead, assess local rate structures and adjust rates where necessary. Building up managerial capacity.

    In Conclusion

    Reform of State Programs — The states too have an important role to play in addressing our infrastructure funding needs. States may need to match an appropriate share of any new federal funds that are provided for infrastructure assistance. Moreover, states need to reform their existing programs to make them more effective. States should commit to: Respecting the universal eligibility of all water systems for federal assistance.

    Streamlining their programs for delivery of assistance and allow alternative procurement procedures that save money. Making their financing mechanisms more attractive by committing to grants and very low or negative interest loans. Using federal funds in a timely fashion or face the reprogramming of those funds to other states. Increase in Federal Assistance — The federal government has a critical role to play in preventing the development of a gap in water infrastructure financing.

    AWWA recommends either changing and expanding the existing Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and other drinking water programs, or creating a new, infrastructure-focused fund. The federal role should include: Significantly increased federal funding for projects to repair, replace or rehabilitate drinking water infrastructure.

    An increase in federally supported re-search on infrastructure management, repair and replacement technologies. Steps to increase the availability and use of private capital. In Conclusion Considering when pipes were laid down in many water systems and how long they can be expected to last, it is clear that a new age — the replacement era — has arrived for water utilities. Over the next 30 years, infrastructure replacement needs will compete with compliance needs for limited resources.

    Only in the true spirit of a new partnership, as outlined in this report, can we think most broadly about these issues. Only in this spirit can we achieve the goals to which we all aspire — the provision of safe and affordable water to all Americans.

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