The 1960s and 1970s ushered in the golden age of infrastructure in the United States, where the country expanded its highways and built its water infrastructure.
But infrastructure maintenance in many parts of the country has been lacking, and extreme events due to climate change are damaging infrastructure or causing it to fail.
The intense heatwave in California in September 2022 is an example. People cranking up their air-conditioning units to cope with the heat has caused a massive spike in power demand that almost crippled its power grid.
Thanks to the timely text alert sent just before 6:00 PM when people come home and turn on their air conditioning units. The power crisis was averted.
Mississippi’s floods in August had caused its already ill-maintained and fragile water treatment plant to fail. As observed in Jackson, Mississippi, when infrastructure fails, the low-income and colored communities, who have invested the least in their infrastructure, are the most affected.
The article, ‘America’s aging infrastructure sags under the pressure of climate change,’ presents the country’s infrastructure problems due to insufficient infrastructure funding.
A 2019 report estimated the US has a US$1 trillion backlog of needed repairs.
- More than 220,000 bridges across the country, or 33%, need rehabilitation or replacement.
- Water breaks occur every two minutes, wasting 6 million gallons of treated water amid the 20-year dry period in 1,200 years.
- Pipes with a limited life span distribute drinking water.
- Aging infrastructure caused the wastewater treatment plant in Baltimore to leak dangerous amounts of sewage into the Chesapeake Bay and Michigan dam failures that have caused massive evacuations.
- Infrastructure spending from the federal to the local level has not kept up with the growing population and economy, particularly in low-income communities.
- Over two million lack access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation, of which 5.8% are Native Americans compared to only 0.3% of white households. African Americans are also disproportionately affected by nonworking sewage systems than their white counterparts.
Jackson, Mississippi, has repeatedly asked for state funding for its struggling water treatments for years.
- Climate change is bringing more extreme weather conditions – heavy precipitation and succeeding floods, heat, and storm surges are accelerating infrastructure failure, most of which were designed in a climate that no longer exists.
According to the article delaying further the necessary upgrades and repairs of infrastructure will increase their vulnerability in the next decade and escalate repair costs by billions of dollars.
It further mentioned that rail repair costs could reach between $5 to $10 billion yearly until 2050, and road repairs due to high temperatures could reach $200 to 300 billion by 2100. Water utility repair is also facing a trillion-dollar tag price by mid-century.
With climate change effects worsening, the article notes that prioritizing infrastructure funding at a national level is critical to support local governments who find it challenging to fund the massive cost.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure bill and the Inflation Reduction Act that the US has legislated are good starting points. Still, they fall short of the money needed for the long-term infrastructure fix.
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