Leaders at every level of government continue to ignore the obvious, and dare I say, “inconvenient” truth about water: We need to raise rates. Either that or get used to being thirsty, stock up on Pepto-Bismol, and get ready for a mean tutorial on what Cholera feels like.
Peter H. Gleick got it right in his Washington Post editorial. U.S. water systems are the best in the world, but the fight to maintain water quality may be lost if utilities remain hamstrung by requirements to under charge for services. Apparently, paying more than $0.01 per gallon is a mortal sin. Consider that the next time you plug $2.00 into a vending machine for a 20oz bottle of Aquafina.
According to the Clean Watersheds Needs Survey 2008 Report to Congress and the American Society of Civil Engineers, there is a respective spending shortfall of $298.1 billion for clean water systems and $220 billion for drinking water systems to replace their aging infrastructure over the next 20 years. That’s a lot of money for a resource we cannot live without, but no one seems to be listening.
While much of this issue should be handled locally, Congress needs to help too. Asking the public to accept paying higher water rates in return for Congress contributing additional dollars for investment in water systems is reasonable. Dear Congress: Stop talking and toying with the idea of creating a water bank utilities could access to get the funds they need to save our water systems. Instead, try actually establishing one.
At a time when government has become more reactionary than proactive, we need our elected representatives at all levels to rise above the fray and act for the greater good. If water is life, and life is short, then we have a responsibility to act now – before the tap runs dry.