New research out of Michigan State University says that if the cost of water continues to rise as projected, more than a third of U.S. households won't be able to afford water in the next five years.
According to MSU scholar Elizabeth Mack, nearly 36 percent of households won't be able to spring for water due to a variety of reasons, from aging infrastructure to climate change to sanitation and issues with water quality.
According to the EPA, the average home should only spend 4.5 percent of household income on water and wastewater services. Based on that criteria, Mack says that 13.8 million U.S. households (about 12 percent of all households) may find water bills unaffordable right now. But water rates have increased 41 percent since 2010. And if they continue at that pace, conservative estimates say that 40.9 million households won’t be able to afford water services.
Aging infrastructure is a big part of the problem. Experts say it will cost more than $1 trillion to replace World War II-era water systems over the next 25 years. Climate change is also a factor, as more intense weather events fuel a need to improvement wastewater facilities. By 2050, infrastructure improvements could cost more than $36 billion dollars.
Mack’s study is one of the first nationwide investigations of water affordability. And the one thing that we all need to remember is that water is a fundamental element to the sustainability of all life. Access to clean water is a right, and it needs to be protected.
This is IEN Now with David Mantey.