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Home > Natural Resources > Water Strategies to Preserve Natural Resource Supplies and Quality

Checked your water pipes recently?

City and county water lines are aging and causing sinkholes, which has health as well as economic impact on our quality of life.

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Fresh water for drinking, grooming and landscaping -- not to mention business operations -- rank high on our personal and business agendas. Most of American cities take for granted a clean, delicious water supply.

An underground issue is starting to break through to the surface -- namely sinkholes. As city and county water lines erode from decades of use and inadequate maintenance, we're seeing more sinkholes break through the surface as escaping water erodes massive amounts of soil.

The Environmental Protection Agency has projected that unless cities invest more to repair and replace their water and sewer systems, nearly half of the water system pipes in the United States will be in poor, very poor or “life elapsed” status by 2020.

Local geology or underground hazards are blamed for many sinkholes. But increasingly, as America’s cities grow older and basic repairs are put off, bad pipes are making their presence known.

In its 2005 “Report Card for America’s Infrastructure,” the American Society of Civil Engineers gave water and wastewater infrastructure across the country a D-minus and suggested it would take an investment of $390 billion to bring wastewater infrastructure up to par.

Sustainable communities are built on shared infrastructure. We don't need stadiums for sports -- but we do need water lines. Sustainable communities are flexible as they set priorities and basic infrastructure is certainly worthy of review in your city.

What can you do about local water supplies?

First, ask questions. Go prepared. Check out the EPA's website and resources in your own city, county and state. Then ask your public officials about the status of your regional water lines.

Volunteer to serve on a task force. Call your state and federal legislators to learn and share your concern. Ask for action. And ask what programs your legislators are supporting. Ask that a safe water supply be given a higher priority than non-essential programs.

Document water related problems. Build a "water docier". Facts can be shared with news reporters, with editors...and with community and environmental advocates. The more voices, the more likely action will be considered...and then taken. Government works on numbers: factual information, dollars, and number of votes. To make a difference, gather your numbers...

Questions to research:

  • When were your local water and sewer lines installed. Most American lines were installed in three major phases: late 1800s, 1920s and just after World War II -- times of rapid population growth in cities.

  • What is the maintenance history of your local lines? The 1970s launched the Clean Water Act and a round of improvements for water and sewage treatment facilities and increased federal oversight. But water lines weren't necessarily included in that update.

  • Do stormwater management problems affect your water and sewer pipes? Runoff and overflows can be a problem...are they affecting your water system?

  • Where does the money come from? Ask leaders in other cities how they have funded upgrades. Provide case studies and creative financing ideas.

Democratic (or representative) government requires vigilent citizens. Not vigilence just for wrongdoing -- but to provide for the basics. And what can be more basic than a reliable water supply?

Water Resources

California has unique water supply issues -- largely because we have a huge population living in the desert...and have salt water incursion along our long shoreline. Water supplies are a contentious issue -- the Colorado River, piping water from Northern California to Southern .. the issues are growing and we will all be affected. These issues are part of the sustainable local water supply life-support issue.

California EPA has a "Clean Water Team" program through the State Water Resources Control Board They provide a CWT Tool Box for Citizen Monitoring Programs and other Clean Water assistance.

US EPA Ground Water and Drinking Water can answer many questions about homeowner sourced water supplies.

Safety and security are now issues that affect water supply planning.

Public Drinking Water Systems Programs: The public drinking water systems regulated by EPA, and delegated states and tribes, provide drinking water to 90 percent of Americans.

The Water Education Foundation provides a Briefing on California Water Issues.

We hope this is enough information to help you "go with the flow" ... and if you're interested in safe water for a sustainable lifestyle, your support of water will certainly be a drop of liquid gold! (Okay, I had to have a little fun!)

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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