July WaterWorks News: Rate hikes spur opposition, water main causes cave-in, stimulus funds arriving slowly

July 2010 Vol. 65 No. 7
A scene in Gainesville after a water main burst flooded a street and caused a cave-in.

According to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the state uses one trillion gallons of water per day. That's enough to cover the entire state in 8 inches of water. "Despite the fact that we've just come out of the wettest winter in recent memory, New Jersey's water supply is slowly diminishing," Bigelow told the audience. "And the availability of water has a direct impact on a community's ability to grow." The decline has been caused, in part, by salt water intrusion into regional coastal plain aquifers, and increasing levels of contamination. As a result, NJDEP severely reduced the amount of water that could be pulled from wells, forcing water providers to turn to more complex and costly surface water systems. "We have proposed several conservation programs that if implemented would help reduce water consumption, and in many cases help reduce water bills. We call this concept Save Blue, Save Green," said Bigelow.

Another driver where water will impact the economic outlook is the state's aging 30,000 miles of water infrastructure (about 8,600 of which belong to New Jersey American Water), which according to the U.S. EPA will take up to $10 billion over the next 20 years to replace. "Most of these assets are buried and have been out of sight and mind for many years. We are replacing pipes at a frequency rate that requires an asset life of 300 to 500 years. Unfortunately, pipes do not last that long and their original cost of $1/ft is now more than $100/ft to replace," said Bigelow. "Clearly, there is a need for the water industry to step up investing in the state's infrastructure, and that can be challenging in the current economic climate. As I mentioned earlier, without infrastructure investment, communities will not continue to attract businesses and maintain quality of life."

Endangered Upper Delaware River
The Upper Delaware River, the drinking water source for 17 million people across New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania is at risk from shale fracking for natural gas, a process that poisons groundwater and creates toxic pollution, according to an association report. This threat landed the Upper Delaware in the number one spot in the American Rivers organization’s America's Most Endangered Rivers: 2010 edition.