The Biden administration aims to require the removal of nearly all lead water pipes in the U.S. within 10 years, proposing new restrictions on lead in drinking water. It’s a job that would cost $20 billion to $30 billion over 10 years, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Mildred Warner is a professor of city and regional planning and an expert on local government services, including urban water and sanitation services. She says the benefits of replacing lead pipes are clear, not just for population health, but in infrastructure upgrades and equity improvements. However, finding the necessary funds is a daunting challenge that the federal government needs to better address, Warner argues.
“Replacing lead pipes is not only important to population health, especially of children, but also affords an opportunity to upgrade infrastructure, improve connectivity and better address social equity in drinking water systems across the country. It is expensive, but water pipes last for decades, so this type of investment is an investment in our future.
“Cities recognize the need to do this. The challenge is finding the funds. Federal mandates without funds won’t work. We need the federal government to provide more funds to municipalities to pay for this work. The recent infrastructure bills are a step in the right direction, but to meet this new restriction would require more funds.
“Cities stand ready as partners in this work, but the funding needs to come from the federal government.”
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