Five Facts on Water in America

The bipartisan infrastructure bill that is being considered in Congress contains funding for upgrades to water infrastructure like dams as well as funding to replace lead pipes and other outdated and unsafe systems. Much of the nation’s critical water infrastructure is 50-100 years old. Here are five facts on water in America.

  1. Millions of U.S. households lack safe drinking water.

As many as 10 million homes do not have access to clean drinking water, with as many as 22 million people getting drinking water from systems with lead pipes — even though they were banned more than 30 years ago.

  1. Drinking water in as many as 400,000 schools contains unsafe levels of lead.

As many as 400,000 schools and childcare centers do not have access to clean drinking water. Baltimore public schools do not let children drink from school water fountains because of the high levels of lead in the pipes there. More than half of the Atlanta public schools that did tests in 2016 showed elevated levels of lead in the water, and that same year, high levels of lead were found in 30 different Newark public schools.

  1. The U.S. government has declared a Colorado River water shortage for the first time ever.

The Colorado River supplies water to 40 million people in seven states, and to major cities including Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, and San Diego. The declaration of a shortage could mean mandatory water use restrictions in some areas. The infrastructure bill would provide $300 million for drought measures to maintain water levels at the river’s reservoirs and prevent additional water cuts.

  1. U.S. drinking water infrastructure is rated D+ by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Every four years, the American Society of Civil Engineers releases a national infrastructure report card. In its 2020 edition, it gives U.S. drinking water infrastructure a grade of D and wastewater infrastructure a D+. There is a water main break every two minutes, and an estimated six billion gallons of treated water lost each day in the U.S. — enough to fill over 9,000 swimming pools.

5.         Americans consider water infrastructure a top issue.

A July AP-NORC poll found that 79% of Americans think funding for pipes that supply drinking water should be part of any infrastructure bill. An April CBS News poll found 85% supported federal funding to replace or repair old pipes.

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