Commentary North Texas water Aging infrastructure creates inefficiency, waste

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Infrastructure Week

Many North Texas water pressure pipelines have hit the century mark. Infrastructure Week, May 13-20, brings to the surface what our ancestors buried. Put in with good intentions, but without a long-term funding model, the old pipelines are costing North Texans water and money. Aging water infrastructure is wasteful, expensive and inefficient. Replacing it is prudent and fiscally responsible and promotes job growth.

During the time it takes to read this article, approximately four water main pipes will burst; in the United States one breaks every two minutes. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, each day about six billion gallons of treated water is lost through leaky pipes. North Texas water and dollars are flowing into the ground.

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Thompson Pipe Group owns historical records for 80 percent of the large-diameter concrete pressure pipelines in America. Most of the lines in this region were put into service 75 years ago. The situation is worse in the Northeast where municipal water owners have pipes that pre-date the Civil War.

The ASCE describes infrastructure patch and repair costs as a hidden tax; each American family pays about $9 a day on leaky pipes, potholes and lost productivity. Additionally, for each day of water disruption, the average U.S. business loses about $230 in sales per employee. In industries most reliant on water, sales drop nearly 75 percent.

Every four years the ASCE publishes an infrastructure report card. In 2017 engineers gave Texas’ drinking water infrastructure a D+. The country as a whole received a D. Raising the grade starts with supporting an f word – funding.

The report estimates that nearly $9 billion worth of infrastructure improvements are needed to accommodate the state’s future drinking water needs. The 2019 federal budget includes $44 billion for energy and water development for the entire country.

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According to the Clean Water Council, $1 billion in water infrastructure investment supports more than 20,000 jobs. The federal government is funding only one-third of the country’s water infrastructure projects. Our national water infrastructure investment gap is $82 billion per year.

In Texas the problem grows with prosperity. By 2070 a projected 51 million people will call the Lone Star State home. The Dallas-Fort Worth region leads the nation in population growth; from 2017 to 2018 nearly 1,000 people moved here every day. Taking greater responsibility for today’s needs will ensure that North Texans have an efficient and effective water distribution system.

Investing in new pipe makes ripples above ground, too. The manufacturing industry has a large economic impact. Closing the economic gap will generate an estimated 1.3 million jobs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there are nearly 13 million manufacturing workers in the United States. On average they earned nearly $85,000 annually including salary and benefits. According to the National Association of Manufacturers, the industry has one of the highest percentages of employees eligible for health benefits. In 2015, 92 percent of manufacturing employees were eligible; other industries averaged 79 percent.

According to NAM, the industry has the largest multiplier of all economic sectors: For every $1 spent in manufacturing, $1.89 is added to the economy. The organization suggests that the industry could account for nearly 12 percent of the gross domestic product and employment. The Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation estimates that the industry’s impact is one-third of the GDP. Regardless of the numbers, an investment in manufacturing is an investment in jobs.

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More than any other issue, Americans support rebuilding infrastructure. The Value of Water Campaign, an effort led by public and private water industry leaders, surveyed 1,000 voters. Nearly 80 percent think it is extremely important to invest in infrastructure. The same number say water service fees are affordable and more than three in five are willing to pay a modest increase to fund improved service.

Many politicians agree with their constituents. In its list of priorities for the 116th Congress, the Council of Mayors supports spending $125 billion on modernizing America’s water and wastewater systems.

For two centuries, the federal government was the catalyst for the infrastructure projects that transformed America, made us a superpower, and built the middle class. We need leadership with vision and courage to tackle big projects again.

This is the seventh year that public and private entities have stood in solidarity for Infrastructure Week. During this time more than 500 organizations will host nearly 100 events to reignite the spark of infrastructure investment.

North Texans should encourage lawmakers to think long-term and invest in infrastructure at federal, state and local levels. Contact your representatives today and tell them we need a new wave of funding to improve water delivery and the North Texas economy. Participate on social media with #BuildForTomorrow.

Thompson Pipe Group is one the largest concrete pipe manufacturers in America and has nearly a dozen locations nationwide with about 1,500 employees. Detlev Schlorke is president of Thompson Pipe Group–Pressure. Headquartered in Grand Prairie, the division designs, manufactures, transports and installs water pressure pipe. Learn more at