Addressing America’s Aging Water Infrastructure

Imagine you’re getting yourself and your kids ready to start your day. As usual, you’re in a hurry, so you don’t notice that your kid flushed a wipe down the toilet until the toilet is overflowing onto the floor, making you even later for your morning meeting.

An overflowing toilet is inconvenient, but flushing a wipe won’t lead to an immediate water infrastructure crisis in your home – though it is important to know what to avoid sending down the

drain  to help protect your pipes and property, because repairing water damage can be expensive. The real issue lies further beneath the surface – across the roughly 1.6 million miles of aging water and sewer pipes in the U.S.


In 2017, The American Society of Civil Engineers graded the state of the nation’s infrastructure a D+ and estimated that the need for improvements over the next 25 years could reach $1 trillion dollars. The water pipes and systems that were installed in the mid-1900s have well exceeded their useful life.

The quality of the pipes water flows through is just as important as the quality of the water itself. American Water is dedicated to finding ways to keep clean water flowing through the 1600 communities we serve across the U.S. while also making the necessary replacements and upgrades along the way.

So, water we doing?

We’re putting the cost of poor infrastructure into perspective.

An undertaking as important and necessary as this requires a major shift in our collective mindset and habits as a nation. It is estimated that infrastructure improvements — and funding for them — costs the average American family $9 per day. To put that into perspective, that’s about $270 per month that could go towards other bills, food, clothing, and so much more.

We already invest $1.5 billion each year to maintain the health of our plants and pipes that enable us to provide you with the clean, safe water that you drink and use for all of your activities. But because these systems are of varying age and size and we have pipeline infrastructure totaling nearly 51,000 miles, we are committed to doing even more.

We’re investing in water infrastructure improvements.

American Water has committed to investing more than $8 billion in capital over the next five years to improve the reliability, resiliency, and efficiency of our infrastructure, because we want to ensure that you and your family never have to second-guess whether or not water will flow from your faucet when you turn it on. We are replacing aging pipes at a higher rate than the water utility industry average, hardening our assets to make them more resilient to increasing threats from climate variability, replacing outdated equipment, and investing in technology to make our distribution systems smarter to improve energy efficiency.

We’re helping consumers do their part to protect water infrastructure.

Infrastructure improvements mean that service may temporarily be suspended while we work, which isn’t ideal for anyone. So, to minimize disruption to your home, we coordinate with municipalities to align our upgrades with the timing of their street paving programs, and with other utilities to align with their replacement and renewal projects whenever possible. But, there are ways that you can help minimize service disruption as well, like proactively protecting your pipes and being mindful of how much water you use.

When thinking of other ways you can protect your pipes, you should consider what you are putting down your sink and flushing down your toilet and the direct result that

has on your local infrastructure. Always keep in mind that your pipes may have been installed close to 100 years ago and were not built to withstand the modern products and their demand on the system. We know how hard it can be to change your habits, but having access to safe, clean water for you, your family, and your community is so much more important than flushing a wipe instead of throwing it in the trash. Follow these simple tips so that we can all keep life flowing now, and for generations to come.