Atlanta Water Main Breaks Indicative of Larger U.S. Infrastructure Woes

Three water mains in the Georgia city broke late the week of May 27, leaving numerous residents without water. Many residents remained under a boil water order for days even after one major water main was repaired.

This event is just one example of America’s aging infrastructure.

“A lot of our water infrastructure was built between 50 to 100 years ago, so there’s quite a bit of it that’s at the end of its service life and we see this in water main breaks,” said Richard Luthy, a civil and environmental engineering professor at Stanford University.

According to The Hill, He said main breaks are a “common story” in older cities; “it’s just a symptom that these need to be replaced.”

The American Society of Civil Engineers estimated in 2021 that a water main breaks every two minutes in the U.S. — leaking enough water to fill 9,000 swimming pools each day. 

“We have not invested in our infrastructure the way we should,” said Darren Olson, chair of the group’s Committee on America’s Infrastructure.

The implications of such breaks are not only a loss of water access for consumers, but also for essential services.

“You’ve got hospitals and other critical infrastructure being served by those water mains,” Olson said, adding that when they break, it can cause “cascading effects.”

“It can affect a hospital that maybe has to turn away patients,” he added. “You can have a manufacturing facility shut down for a day or two, and those impacts can be extremely expensive on the US economy.”

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