HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) today joined elected officials, drinking water and wastewater service providers, community leaders, business and labor groups, policy experts, advocacy organizations and infrastructure experts in “Imagine a Day Without Water” – a national effort to increase awareness about the importance of water infrastructure and the need to continue fostering investments in our drinking water and wastewater systems.
“Water is unique because it is the only utility commodity that we put into our bodies, or serve to our families and friends,” said PUC Commissioner Robert F. Powelson, who also serves on the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) Committee on Water. “Also notable is the diversity of the water utilities overseen by the Commission – ranging in size from a few dozen customers to hundreds of thousands. Still, despite differences in size, geography and other factors, we can never lose sight of the vital nature of these services.”
Commissioner John F. Coleman Jr. highlighted the need for continued investment in vital infrastructure systems.
"Water is an important resource that many of us take for granted every day,” Commissioner Coleman said. “National ‘Imagine a Day Without Water’ reminds us just how valuable our water resources are and how important it is for us to continue to invest in necessary water infrastructure to ensure safe and reliable service.”
The Commission noted that communities and utilities throughout Pennsylvania, and across the country, face concerns about aging water infrastructure – but the hidden nature of water and wastewater pipelines causes them to generally go unnoticed, unless there is some problem.
“It is easy to understand the impact of time, weather and frequent use on other infrastructure systems, like the roads and bridges we travel every day, but the network of water lines under our feet is actually far more extensive than our national highway system,” Commissioner Powelson said. “There are an estimated 1.2 million miles of water mains in the U.S., which is 26 miles of pipeline for every mile of interstate highway. While many of those roads are only a few decades old, some of the nation’s water systems date back to the 1800’s or early 1900’s.”
Some of those systems are showing the effects of a century, or more, of running 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Each community faces distinct challenges and will require locally-crafted solutions, and the Imagine A Day Without Water campaign highlights stories of innovative solutions to our nation’s water challenges.
As noted by Commissioner Powelson, many Pennsylvania water utilities have taken an active role in replacing their aging infrastructure with the PUC's Distribution System Improvement Charge (DSIC) mechanism. The Commission continues to encourage efforts to ensure that our water systems remains up-to-date and the issue is a matter of continual attention.
“We're thrilled that the Pennsylvania PUC is joining Imagine a Day Without Water. This national day of action is educating public officials and engaging citizens about the essential role water plays in our lives, and the threat that aging and underfunded water infrastructure poses to our communities and economy,” said Radhika Fox, CEO of the US Water Alliance and Director of the Value of Water Coalition. “Most people can take for granted that when the turn on the tap, or flush the toilet, water systems function exactly as they are supposed to. But the systems that provide critical water and wastewater services are aging, and we need to take action before it gets worse. Because a day without water is nothing short of a crisis.”
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission balances the needs of consumers and utilities; ensures safe and reliable utility service at reasonable rates; protects the public interest; educates consumers to make independent and informed utility choices; furthers economic development; and fosters new technologies and competitive markets in an environmentally sound manner.
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