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America's Water Pipeline Puzzle

America’s declining water pipeline infrastructure is a national issue because our water supplies are not as localized as we imagined.  

The pipeline system is aging and deteriorating at a rate that is failing to keep up with demands. Corrosion is the leading cause of pipeline failure, and the number of significant incidents has been increasing each year since 2006.

With an already weak pipeline system, rising sea levels in flood plains and coastal areas threaten drinking water and sewage treatment plants, and repeated catastrophic storms have the potential to overwhelm water treatment abilities. The need to replace pipelines comes coupled, too, with a need to extend them as 2 million Americans remain without running water to begin with. 

New progress has come to light in the past decade. Plastics have been found to potentially serve as safe, highly affordable materials for constructing new pipes as quickly as possible. In the largest form of federal investment in infrastructure within a generation, the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act dedicated approximately $82.5 billion to critical water infrastructure improvements and even addressed relevant climate impacts.

A step in a perhaps more unified direction towards investment and regulation, the historic bill calls to our attention the nationwide significance of our water pipeline infrastructure's failings and future. 


“America’s Infrastructure Challenge: Lead Water Pipes Explained.” n.d. Accessed January 18, 2022.

“Drinking Water.” 2017. ASCE’s 2021 Infrastructure Report Card | (blog). January 17, 2017.

“FACT SHEET: The Biden-Harris Lead Pipe and Paint Action Plan.” 2021. The White House. December 16, 2021.

Groeger, Lena V. n.d. “Pipelines Explained: How Safe Are America’s 2.5 Million Miles of Pipelines?” ProPublica. Accessed January 18, 2022.

Gusovsky, Dina. 2016. “America’s Water Crisis Goes beyond Flint, Michigan.” CNBC. March 24, 2016.

“How Development of America’s Water Infrastructure Has Lurched Through History.” n.d. Accessed January 18, 2022.

“Infographic: The Age of U.S. Drinking Water Pipes -- From Civil War Era to Today.” 2016. Circle of Blue (blog). February 18, 2016.

Tabuchi, Hiroko. 2017. “$300 Billion War Beneath the Street: Fighting to Replace America’s Water Pipes.” The New York Times, November 10, 2017, sec. Climate.

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