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Water: the fundamental source of life. Yet, for many American cities, the reliable delivery of clean water is becoming an escalating concern due to aging infrastructure and climate change. Let’s look at five cities facing potential water crises and understand why it’s crucial to act now.
Source: PBS NewsHour/YouTube
1. Jackson, Mississippi: In August 2022, the overflow of the Pearl River flooded Jackson, pushing its water treatment facility to the brink. A combination of neglected infrastructure and surging waters meant residents were without clean drinking water for weeks. Experts warn this could be a sign of more crises to come, especially if the aging American water infrastructure isn’t updated to meet contemporary climate challenges.
2. Buffalo, New York: A harsh winter storm in December 2022 blanketed Buffalo with over 50 inches of snow. The storm stirred up a “seiche” in Lake Erie, leading to high water levels and coastal flooding in Buffalo. While the city managed to weather this storm, the looming threats from rising water levels remain a concern for the water infrastructure.
3. Prichard, Alabama: This Gulf Coast city could be a disaster waiting to happen. From storms to decaying water lines, the problems here are myriad. The water system leaked an alarming 56% of its water over 20 months. Furthermore, racial injustice and inadequate investments amplify the concerns about the city’s water infrastructure.
4. St. Louis, Missouri: St. Louis, with its older infrastructure, is grappling with a dual challenge: lead contamination and the impact of Climate change. Many of the city’s lead pipes, which can leach toxins into the water, remain in service. Climate-induced flooding only adds to these concerns, threatening to further degrade the aging system.
5. San Juan, Puerto Rico: The devastating impact of Hurricane Maria in 2017 highlighted the vulnerabilities of San Juan’s water infrastructure. Power outages left many without water for months. Aging infrastructure, coupled with frequent extreme weather events, poses ongoing challenges for residents.
These cities exemplify a larger national challenge. Addressing water infrastructure is not just about ensuring access to clean water; it’s about safeguarding health, economies, and communities. The time to act and reinvest is now.
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