Posted on in Todd Talks by Todd Johnson

It’s a well-known statistic that we have all heard many times. Over 70% of the earth’s surface is water. Just 3% of all the water on Earth is fresh water. The human body is between 55% and 78% water and we each need around 7 liters of water a day to function. Clearly, water is essential for our health and well-being. But if water is so important for our health, our environment, even our economy, then why is it so often overlooked and taken for granted?

Ancient Romans were the first to really introduce what we would call water infrastructure. They famously built miles of elevated aqueducts that delivered water to their people from far off sources. They even devised sewer systems that took away the waste from their communities. It’s a testament to their engineering capabilities as well as their recognition of the importance of having clean water to drink and wash with as well as the significance of disposing of the waste that they knew could make them sick.

The water infrastructure in the United States is far more advanced than the aqueducts and canals of the Roman Empire. We have improved upon their methods, replacing elevated canals with underground pipes. We have water and wastewater treatment plants that make our water safe to drink and wastewater safe to discharge back into our environment. But this infrastructure is aging. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has rated the water infrastructure in the US a D or D- for the past decade-plus. There is a water main break about every 2 minutes, leading to a loss of over 6 billion gallons of treated water per day!

There are over 2.2 million miles of pipe underground in the US. Much of it is decaying and at or nearing the end of its useful life. There are areas where centuries old wooden watermains are still in use. Sure, it’s extremely rare, but the fact that they are still in use shouldn’t be a comfort to anyone. When politicians speak of infrastructure, they generally talk about the things we see like roads, bridges, power lines and stations, and buildings like airports. These things are important, don’t get me wrong, but since we cannot live without clean water, I think it’s obvious where our focus should be.

Last year, The American Jobs Plan was passed. This bill will distribute $111 billion to our crumbling water and wastewater industries. The highlights are:

- $45 billion to be made available via grants for replacement of 100% of lead pipes and service lines
- $56 billion will be available in low-cost, flexible loans for the update, upgrade, and or construction of water, wastewater, and storm water systems.
- $10 billion to monitor and remediation of PFAS

Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) are a group of manufactured chemicals. These chemicals are found in the air, soil, food, packaging, and among other things, water. These chemicals have been in use since the 1940-s because of their useful properties, but they have been discovered to break down very slowly and have been linked to negative health effects on humans and animals alike. Because they break down so slowly, the danger is that they can build up in us as we come into contact with them over time. So, as you can see, it is important that we address this now.

We are all consumers of water and producers of wastewater, but as a manufacturer of products used in the treatment of water and wastewater, this topic is of added importance to us here at Penn-Troy. We are looking forward to the opportunity of being an integral part of the future of the infrastructure in this great country.