The Solution: A Concerted Effort to Rebuild Our Water and Data Systems
The slow pace of updating telecommunications networks and the ongoing destruction of vital water systems are two massive components of America's overall infrastructure degradation that must be addressed, and soon. In purely economic terms, the costs of lost productivity due to rotten data networks and the costs of repairing - in situations of catastrophic failure in water systems - both the immediate damage done to the water network and the collateral damage done to surrounding property are steadily increasing.
As citizens we should all recognize the importance of IT infrastructure, support service of its fundamental components, and be willing to sacrifice some tax dollars as an investment in boosting long term productivity. As citizens we should all back a reinvestment in modernizing water systems to reduce our own costs due to water loss and the expense of mitigating catastrophic systems failures.
This is a difficult commitment to make when economic uncertainty still looms over us. But there is a clear need for an investment now, when so many people with relevant skills are unemployed and so many local businesses could benefit from cost reductions and the boost in orders that would come from a concerted effort to revitalize crumbling infrastructure.
If additional motivation, beyond a desire to save money in the long haul and put people back to work in the near term, is required, consider several facts.
Cities along major rivers that also receive significant rainfall, such as Portland, Oregon or Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, currently face a major problem with rainfall overwhelming the ability of sewer systems to cope. This leads to raw sewage flowing into the rivers that run through these cities. Smaller communities face a similar problem. Investing in sewer systems with better capacities (remember that they were originally designed during a time when the US population was less than half of what it is now) would help mitigate this problem.
Many pipes installed in the first half of the 20th century were made of wood or lead. Wood rots and molds, and mold spores in water can lead to expensive, unhealthy mold problems in homes. Lead is a known toxic element that causes brain damage and death in children. Just like many old homes have lead paint problems, many old communities are served by lead pipes that degrade, and pump poison into the water.
Dropped calls are a perpetual problem on wireless networks across America. It is unknown how many hours of lost productivity are caused due to calls dropping, or how many business deals fall through because a key member of a negotiating team can't reliably attend a major conference call. And when it comes to the internet itself, insufficient bandwidth interferes with users' ability to browse a website, making it less likely that page views will converted to dollars.