Monday, March 15, 2010

Where Does the Rain Go?

My son, looking out at the severe rains falling all weekend, asked me that question at one point. I gave him the usual stream to river to ocean explanation, but of course, the reality is much more complicated then that. Cities, especially, are dependent on sewers to move water from large sections of pavement which can't absorb it. However, as the NYTimes reports, a huge number of the sewers in the United States are dangerously old and were never designed to support the volumes of water that they are asked to transport today. The solution is simple: replace the pipes. But in our current political climate, where conservatives have convinced everyone that they need not pay taxes and that government is incapable of doing anything right, it seems unlikely that this will happen:
In the last year, federal lawmakers have allocated more than $10 billion for water infrastructure programs, one of the largest such commitments in history.
But Mr. Hawkins and others say that even those outlays are almost insignificant compared with the problems they are supposed to fix. An E.P.A. study last year estimated that $335 billion would be needed simply to maintain the nation’s tap water systems in coming decades. In states like New York, officials estimate that $36 billion is needed in the next 20 years just for municipal wastewater systems.

These are staggering numbers. It's a national disgrace that our national priorities are such that these domestic issues are so neglected.

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