The United States uses 42 billion gallons of water a day to support daily life from cooking and bathing in homes to use in factories and offices across the country. Around 80% of drinking water in the U.S. comes from surface waters such as rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and oceans, with the remaining 20% from groundwater aquifers. In total, there are approximately 155,000 active public drinking water systems across the country. Most Americans – just under 300 million people – receive their drinking water from one of the nation’s 51,356 community water systems. Of these, just 8,674 systems, or 5.5%, serve more than 92% of the total population, or approximately 272.6 million people. Small systems that serve the remaining 17.4% of the population frequently lack both economies of scale and financial, managerial, and technical capacity, which can lead to problems of meeting Safe Drinking Water Act standards.
Drinking water is delivered via one million miles of pipes across the country. Many of those pipes were laid in the early to mid- 20th century with a lifespan of 75-100 years. With utilities averaging a pipe replacement rate of 0.5% per year, it will take an estimated 200 years to replace the system – nearly double the useful life of the pipes.
Because America’s drinking water infrastructure provides a critical service, significant new investment and increased efficiencies are needed as filtration plants, pipes, and pumps age past their useful life. Every day, nearly six billion gallons of treated drinking water are lost due to leaking pipes, with an estimated 240,000 water main breaks occurring each year. It is estimated that leaky, aging pipes are wasting 14 to 18% of each day’s treated water; the amount of clean drinking water lost every day could support 15 million households.
To address deteriorating water infrastructure, asset management provides utility managers and decision-makers with critical information on capital infrastructure assets and timing of investments. Some key steps for asset management include making an inventory of critical assets; evaluating their condition and performance; developing plans to maintain, repair, and replace assets; and funding these activities.Back to Drinking Water