By Howard Neukrug & Edward G. Rendell

October 15, 2015

If you read something about Philadelphia’s infrastructure falling apart, you probably picture potholes in the road and rusted-out bridges that need to be replaced. But that is just the infrastructure you can easily see every day. There is a whole universe of it under our feet that, in many places, is much older than the roads we drive on.

Underground is a massive network of water systems that work 24/7/365 to bring clean, safe drinking water to us and to take it away to be treated. In Philadelphia, there are more than 6,200 miles of drinking water mains and sewer pipes that could stretch from here to California and back. Across the country, there are more than a million miles of underground water pipes, many of them dating back a century or more.

If our water system failed, Philadelphia would wake up to a very unpleasant morning. Imagine a day without water. You couldn’t brush your teeth, flush the toilet, or take a shower. You couldn’t give your dog a bowl of water or make your coffee. And that is just residential use. Commercial use is a huge component of water consumption. Breweries, restaurants, hospitals, and hotels all need water. Manufacturers, firefighters, and the groundskeepers at Lincoln Financial Field all rely on water. Water keeps our economy flowing.

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