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At a Senate hearing last month, it was estimated that, on average, 25 percent of drinking water leaks from water system pipes before reaching the faucet. The same committee was told it will take $335 billion to resurrect water systems and $300 billion to fix sewer systems.

About $9.4 billion more per year is needed for water and sewer work between now and 2020, according to a study released last month by the American Society of Civil Engineers. Without that, many Americans should prepare for regular disruption of water service and a jump in contamination caused by sewage bacteria, the study said.

Nationwide, an estimated 1.7 trillion gallons of water leaks from pipes each year before it can be put to use. About 900 billion gallons of raw sewage flows into waterways.

The District of Columbia's water system servers as a good example of the needs in other cities:

The average D.C. water pipe is 77 years old with many being installed in the 19th century. Sewers are even older. Most should have been replaced decades ago. Emergency crews rush from site to site to tackle an average of 450 breaks a year. Raw sewage flows into the Potomac, the Anacostia and Rock Creek whenever it rains hard — hundreds of times a year — an annual flush of about 3 billion gallons, according to D.C. Water. Firefighters are equipped with computerized cue sheets to tell them which of the 9,157 hydrants in the District have enough water pressure to put out a fire.

The average water and sewer bill has gone up about 50 percent in just four years, to $65 a month for single-family homes. Unless there is federal regulatory relief, it may climb to $100 a month by the end of the decade. The decrepit system has 1,300 miles of water pipe and 1,800 miles of sewers. The water pipes are being replaced at an average of 11 miles a year. At that rate, replacing them all will take more than 100 years.
 (Wash Post, 1/2/2012)