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From the LI Water Conference: March 27, 2012

The Growing Need for Reinvestment in Drinking Water Infrastructure

A recent report from the American Water Works Association (AWWA) stated that the nation’s buried water infrastructure is approaching the end of its useful life and is in dire need of replacement. Long Island’s water suppliers can confidently assure our residents that we will have the same access to high quality, affordable drinking water for generations to come. That said, it is of the utmost importance that we continue to invest in our drinking water supply systems over the next few decades if we wish to avoid future infrastructure concerns.

Much of the country’s drinking water infrastructure, the more than one million miles of pipes beneath America’s streets, is nearing the end of its useful life and approaching the age at which it needs to be replaced. Moreover, our shifting population brings significant growth to some areas of the nation, requiring larger pipe networks to provide water service.

However, Long Island’s buried water infrastructure can be considered to be in better condition than other parts of the nation. A significant portion of our underground piping was built during the 1950s and 60s, and thus has plenty of effective use remaining in its hundred-year lifetime.

While our communities do not share the same pressing concerns as others in terms of buried pipe networks, there is always a need for investment in our water infrastructure. Much of the above-ground equipment that draws water from Long Island’s deep aquifers, such as wells, pumps, and electrical systems, is nearing the end of its 40-year effective lifetime.

Long Island’s water utility officials have kept abreast of these concerns with a sustained focus on timely maintenance and replacement of aging equipment, and we must continue to do so if we seek to avoid the infrastructure crisis that is now confronting our counterparts across the nation.

It is time for America’s water utilities, consumers and policy makers to recognize that the lack of attention to infrastructure replacement puts a growing stress on communities that will only increase for decades to come. Even on Long Island, where the buried water infrastructure is in better shape, there is a continuing need for reinvestment in drinking water supply systems.

Reinvesting in our water systems costs money, but these costs will only increase over time if we do not address infrastructure challenges as they arise. The water suppliers of Long Island will continue to balance the issue of maintaining reasonable water rates with the need to repair and replace our own infrastructure, as we have always done in the past.