Mom always said, take care of your things and they will last. Most things, if used regularly, will have to be repaired or even replaced at some point. Water infrastructure is vital to everyone, yet nationwide it has not been given proper care. Hidden underground, these systems have gone largely unattended and have been allowed to deteriorate. Many systems date to World War II, and their age mandates greater attention to keep them running. Climate change is exacerbating an already dire situation in many communities, spurring extreme weather conditions that threaten strained systems.

Over the last several decades, intense heat waves, extended drought, massive storms, and catastrophic flooding have become commonplace. Average precipitation, temperature, and storm surge metrics used to determine specifications and requirements of a system in the past are now obsolete as the they are frequently surpassed by those of the present. The recent flooding and resulting system shut down in Jackson, Mississippi is the epitome of this plight. 

According to The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the U.S. experiences a water main break every two minutes resulting in the loss of an estimated 6 billion gallons of treated water daily. Also, the country’s drinking water infrastructure has 2.2 million miles of pipe, much of it antiquated with 10 million lead service lines still in place requiring retrofitting.[1] Already faltering, climate change escalates the insecurity of these systems.

Funding is the biggest obstacle to improved infrastructure. Maintenance and upkeep of these systems often relies on local taxes, and as population growth has demanded system expansion, localities have had to increase spending to meet demand. However, water use has declined in recent years due to conservation efforts; therefore, funds generated have also decreased, leaving less for communities to spend on maintenance. The state and federal government also contribute funds toward infrastructure, but where local governments spend nearly double the amount spent since the 1950s, federal contributions have remained static.[2]

Although the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will provide the opportunity to address many issues, it won’t address them all. $15 billion has been allocated for the removal of lead pipes, but the cost has been estimated to be as high as $60 million for complete removal.[3] Each state must determine priority needs for the rest of the funds, and as the money is spent, resilience should be paramount in terms of planning. The EPA recommends accounting for flooding risks, monitoring water quality threats, planning for alternative power supplies, and identifying system modifications to prepare for challenges to capacity during wet weather. Further, the EPA suggests adapting plans for climate change, specifically to develop emergency response plans to follow in case of an incident and to update drought contingency plans to navigate water supply shortages. 

[1] Wolfe, Mikael, and Caroline Reinhart. “Perspective | Biden Is Right: America's Lead Pipes Need to Be Replaced. Here's Why.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 6 Mar. 2022,

[2] Chinowsky, Paul. “Intense Heat and Flooding Are Wreaking Havoc on Power and Water Systems as Climate Change Batters America's Aging Infrastructure.” The Conversation, 9 Sept. 2022,

[3] Kaiser Health News. “$15 Billion Approved in Infrastructure Bill to Fix Dangerous Water Pipes.”, 8 Nov. 2021,