In the rural Appalachian region of Eastern Kentucky, many residents are dissatisfied with the water supplied from nearby water utilities.
They face many problems – particularly in winter as their water supply is prone to be shut off. The utilities claim that the water shortages are mostly due to water line breaks and residents letting their water run so as not to freeze their pipes, which in itself speaks of a decaying infrastructure system in need of repair.
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has given the United States an overall “D” rating in infrastructure in 2017, which is reflected most in rural communities.
Greg DiLoreto, a retiree of the ASCE’s water utility executive office, comments that the situation is very burdensome on rural and small communities in an interview with HuffPost.
Many Americans are left with less and less options as water is shut off and they end up having more expenses due to having to purchase bottled water or use old wells.
Many small communities are tired of waiting for municipal help. They have formed activist groups using social media to bring together community forums that unite officials, residents, local companies etc. to try and find solutions.
The key to finding solutions is to look at infrastructure and development more holistically, said DiLoreto. “It’s all connected,” he said. “Wastewater treatment is typically the largest user of electricity in a community, so if the electric grid goes down, the wastewater treatment doesn’t work. It goes into the stream, polluting [drinking] water sources.”
The people of Appalachia have in the past been locked into dependency with one major source of work and income (mostly mining) that would provide the infrastructure that they needed, but now with many are looking beyond this into a future of renewable energy development.
This holistic way of looking at infrastructure suggested by DiLoreto is a good place for rural communities like those in Appalachia, Eastern Kentucky to start.
The situation in Viper, Kentucky, is an example of what is happening in smaller towns and municipalities in the US affected by its crumbling water infrastructures.
A solution offered would be to consolidate or to combine with other smaller counties to pool resources to enable urgent and critical upgrades.
Practical support for small utilities is also available through federally funded programs such as the Environmental Finance Centre Network.
The application of asset management practices such as those developed by the South West Environmental Finance Centre is also invaluable in assisting small utilities in the sustainable management of networks and systems.
PHOTO CREDIT: By Dan Grogan – Flickr, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33480667