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U.S. Water Crisis: Millions Can't Afford Water Five Years From Now

Update Date: Jan 16, 2017 01:07 AM EST

One of the basic necessities of life is water. However, a recent study claims that five years from now, around 40.9 million households in the U.S will not be able to afford water. This water crisis is not limited to developing countries but to developed countries too, like the United States.

The study tackles the critical issue of water affordability in the United States. According to the study, over the next few decades, water prices is expected to increase to at most four times its current rates and could go higher for cities who tap private providers for water resources. These private providers are known to charge a higher rate compared to public providers.

In addition, the rate of water has increased 41 percent since 2010. If this continues, in the next five years, around 35.6 percent or at least 40.9 million households in the U.S would not be able to afford water and wastewater services. Even if Americans are willing to pay more to ensure access to water, they cannot continue to do so if water prices go beyond their ability to pay for water and wastewater services.

A number of factors contribute to this alarming hidden water crisis happening in the U.S. According to the sole researcher, Elizabeth Mack from Michigan State University, there are four factors contributing to water affordability in the country.

One of the factors is the aging infrastructures used in water services as the cost of replacing World War II-era water systems could amount to about $1 trillion. The replacement project is even estimated to last for 25 years. If the cost of the replacement project is charged to the consumers, the consumers' household water bills will increase three-fold.

On the other hand, climate change is also affecting water affordability. The constant violent changes in the weather are affecting the water services and equipment needed to ensure water quality. Besides the need to maintain or upgrade infrastructure, improvements to water facilities to process and manage storm water also adds to the price of water.

The last two factors are linked to each other. The declining population growth in cities which leads to suburbanization also reduces the number of paying customers to water providers. This means that the remaining customers shoulder the cost of water services intended to support a much larger population.

The study, published in PLOS ONE, notes that accessibility to and affordability of water is a problem not only for developing countries but developed countries like the U.S. The government, water providers, and consumers need to unite and act to ensure that access to water is affordable to everyone.

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