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  • Writer's pictureSophia Wang

America's Drinking Water Infrastructure

Recently, many cities such as Flint, Michigan, and Jackson, Mississippi, have faced problems in supplying safe drinking water to their residents. In an interview with Shannon Marquex, dean of global engagement and professor of water, sanitation, and hygiene at Columbia University, John Yang, a PBS journalist discusses the causes behind the increasing struggle for clean drinking water.

Professor Marquez cites many reasons behind this increasing struggle such as aging infrastructure and delayed repairs and maintenance because of governments being recently overwhelmed, climate change, extreme weather events, and flooding. This causes underfunded and/or underserved communities to be disproportionately impacted, resulting in severe health issues. Communities also generally don’t receive enough information on their water systems, causing an under informed public where water isn’t properly valued as a resource. A historical lack of investment for cities made up of large minority groups also creates a weaker and more inefficient water system more prone to damage and contamination.

A lack of financing from governments means that many of the water systems throughout the country’s cities have been neglected. This happens much more than expected, since not all water quality issues are reported on national media, especially for smaller cities and small scale issues.

In her travels abroad, Professor Marquez has noted that many cities with water quality issues reflect cities in low middle income countries, as residents have to plan their lives and daily routine around the accessibility of safe water and the removal of wastewater.

While the federal infrastructure bill is scheduled to help with the water system in specific cities, the $55 billion doesn’t even come close to the $480 billion needed over the next 20 years to fix the American drinking water infrastructure. In addition, the states will decide how to prioritize water infrastructure, likely creating an even longer wait for cities.

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