November 21, 2016

Even though it is invisible to most Americans, every community across this country relies on a complex system of reservoirs, aqueducts, dams, levees, treatment plants, pumping stations, and millions of miles of pipes forming our water infrastructure.

For decades, most Americans haven’t given much thought to our water systems, not worrying where water comes from when we turn on the tap, or where it goes after it swirls down the drain.

Now years of deferred maintenance are catching up with us, and the cost of inaction could be severe.

On Capitol Hill, the latest legislation to improve our nation’s water systems is something we can all get behind.

Both Democrats and Republicans know that water is vital to America’s economy and our quality of life.

For businesses, a disruption in water service could be catastrophic.

A new economic analysis from the Value of Water Campaign found that a one-day nationwide disruption in water service would result in $43.5 billion in losses for the economy. That is just a single day, and the damage would be widespread. Farms to factories, hotels to hospitals, and ranches to restaurants – everything would shut down without water service.

Improving our water infrastructure must be a priority for all of Congress.

Doing so will put Americans to work in jobs that can’t be automated or outsourced overseas. In fact, experts suggest a $1 billion infrastructure investment would create tens of thousands of jobs and help put Americans back to work.

Communities across the country are already dealing with our aging water infrastructure. We’ve seen failing dams in California, ice-jam floods in Wyoming, record flooding from storms along the east coast, and water contamination in the Midwest.  

This is everyone’s issue, and addressing it is a shared responsibility.

The U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee continues to move this issue forward by holding bipartisan hearings on the nation’s water infrastructure needs.

One of the things we hear is that rural and urban water systems, and everything in between, all need attention and investment. Clean, safe water is essential to larger cities like Baltimore and Oklahoma City, as well as smaller communities like Cody, Wyoming, or the town of Wyoming, Delaware.

The president has voiced his support for improving the nation’s water infrastructure, and we are ready to work with his administration to move the ball forward. It’s still early in the process, but we are committed to working together to upgrade America’s water system.

Federal investment in water infrastructure has dropped over the past few decades, with more states and localities picking up the costs. We can’t just leave this burden to state and local governments. Washington has an important role to play. 

This is Water Week, and it is a great opportunity for us to recognize the vital role water plays for our nation.

Everyone – every home, every business – needs reliable and safe water. It is time to make water infrastructure a national priority.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), is chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) is ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) is chairman of the Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) is ranking member of the Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

This article was originially featured in The Hill.