Most people accept that major purchases in life — e.g., housing, automobiles, appliances — come with cyclical budgeting impacts that require amortizing costs over the long term, through savings or borrowing. Why should anyone expect the national water infrastructure to be any different?
The reality is that relatively long life-expectancies for major water infrastructure components — 100+ years on cast iron water mains, 40 to 50 years on water main valves, 15 to 20 years on water meters, etc. — have often insulated the public from major infrastructure investments. Today, infrastructure from the mid-20th-century suburban sprawl is reaching the end of its lifecycle, and no one is conditioned to thinking about reinvestment. People expect water rates to remain as consistent as the flow of water from their taps, simply because that’s the way it typically has been.