Trillions of gallons leak from aging drinking water systems, including Alabama

March 4, 2024

By Alabama Public Radio | By Pat Duggins, Associated Press

March 4, 2024

Trillions of gallons are lost from aging drinking water systems across the U.S., underscoring an economic and public health reckoning after decades of deferred maintenance and disinvestment that leave some communities struggling to provide reliable service. One Alabama is considered an example.

Such communities often are “between a rock and a hard place,” said John C. Young, who helped manage Flint, Michigan’s recovery efforts after its lead crisis. He now oversees the water and sewer board in Prichard, Alabama, — which loses about 60% of its treated water — after it was sued for defaulting on a $55 million loan.

Some Prichard officials want to move residents from Alabama Village, where almost one-fifth of the city’s water loss is thought to be occurring and three dozen houses remain out of more than 100. They say it could also create opportunities for redevelopment. That angers residents, who say they weren’t told about the water loss even as utility bills climbed or about health risks from low water pressure, said attorney Roger Varner, who sued on behalf of city residents.

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