Does the United States have a water issue? It may seem like such concerns are confined to underdeveloped areas in other countries, but America isn’t immune to challenges with water — and that’s true across various communities. The reasons vary, as well.
Besides contaminants like lead, price has become a significant barrier for Americans. That’s because the country has a water poverty issue. Let’s take a closer look.
What Is Water Poverty?
If you’ve ever read about water scarcity, you’ll note that scarcity refers to when areas don’t have consistent access to clean, drinkable water. However, water poverty occurs when residents can’t afford to pay for that access. It’s more common than most people think.
Between 2013 and 2017, over 1.1 million Americans had insecure water access. This problem has complicated layers, ranging from infrastructure issues to environmental disruptions. It’s also important to note that housing issues related to plumbing disproportionately affect minorities.
Concerns With Infrastructure and Housing
There are more than 2.2 million miles of pipe laid throughout the U.S. to transport water. These pipes can have numerous issues, and many utility providers have to fix their pipes over the years. That construction can be expensive, so most increase water prices to make up the costs.
Just think about how long some pipes have been in the ground. These systems date back to the early 20th century, so maintenance and repair is a key issue. That’s not to mention the possible toxins that exist in older pipes, including lead.
Additionally, housing plays a role. Those who rent in urban areas may not have access to water when their landlords neglect repairs. Plus, people without homes can’t always find facilities with running water and other basic sanitation necessities.
While America might use 216 trillion gallons of water annually, many residents don’t necessarily have access to that water due to infrastructure and housing concerns.
Problems Related to the Environment
For Americans in drought-prone locations such as Arizona and California, water prices have skyrocketed. After all, our world’s water supply isn’t infinite — 69% of the planet’s freshwater is frozen in ice. Unfortunately, as climate change rages on, droughts are more imminent than ever.
As the resource becomes more limited, residents in places like Austin, Texas, face unaffordable bills to the point where four-fifths of low-income individuals may not have water by 2030. To say the least, water bills have become an insurmountable challenge in many places.
Further, with climate change comes an increased number of floods worldwide. These natural disasters can potentially contaminate water treatment facilities, which means utility suppliers are responsible for higher treatment costs. Those expenses also increase customer bills.
Where Do We Go From Here?
The most substantial problem here might be a lack of federal funding for infrastructure. Through increased dollars from the U.S. government, utility providers would be able to afford the hurdles they face. This way, they wouldn’t have to charge customers to make up the difference.
Due to the reduction in federal funding, municipalities often look for private companies to control the utilities so they have access to better budgets. However, moves like that stir up controversy in many communities. A different, more popular option is an income-based model.
Rather than pay rising water prices based on use, consumers in some cities can pay based on their income levels. It’s a fixed system that keeps prices stable to avoid uncertainty. Plus, customers are much more likely to be able to afford their bills.
Water Poverty Is a Significant Issue in America
Throughout many states, Americans suffer from water poverty. It’s an issue that just might affect people near you, as millions have experienced the repercussions. This problem stems from various systemic factors that require special attention — but for now, cities have adopted new payment models to potentially mitigate the damage.