Flint Water Crisis and Financial Stress for US Water Utilities


poison-159083_640From Washington state to New York, from Michigan to Louisiana – if you think the Flint poisoned water crisis doesn’t affect you and your family, think again.

We’ve been writing about the issues surrounding our aging infrastructure since starting this blog two years ago. Our post from June 2014 outlines how much it would cost to upgrade our aging public water systems.

A recent article in USA Today, Flint Water Crisis Could Cost U.S. $300 Billion, explores the broader financial consequences to Flint’s drinking water crisis, which may compel regulators and water suppliers to spend more than a quarter-trillion dollars on infrastructure upgrades sooner than originally expected.

Fitch Ratings Inc., one of the three nationally recognized statistical rating organizations designated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is quoted as saying, “We believe the capital costs to replace these lines could exceed $275 billion”. According to the article, “more than 6 million lead service lines exist across the country, according to estimates cited by Fitch. Many of these are located in the Northeast, Midwest and older urban areas.”

More from Fitch: if costs are spread over a sufficient amount of time, they could be manageable. But, if those changes need to be executed sooner, it could cause financial stress for some water utilities.

Add to these costs, lawsuits filed in the wake of the Flint water crisis, we can reasonably expect increases to be passed on to consumers to cover upgrades and damages.

Lawsuits have already been filed in local, state and federal courts on behalf of Flint residents who drank lead-tainted water for nearly two years. The complaints name a long list of state and local agencies and officials, from Gov. Rick Snyder to Flint city employees, with charges ranging from civil to criminal, and including pipe replacement as well as long-term medical monitoring and health care.

All of this could accelerate changes to EPA drinking water regulations as they relate to lead. According to Fitch, “In light of these lawsuits and the heightened public focus on possible lead contamination, Fitch expects any proposed rule revisions will likely move the industry toward removing all lead service lines,” the rating agency said Friday. “Reprioritizing and accelerating lead pipe replacement would add significant additional capital needs to the sector and could compete with other critical infrastructure projects, including developing sufficient long-term water supplies and replacing aging infrastructure components other than lead lines.”

Flint is just one city in our large nation. Think about how this could affect your family – it is a health and financial issue for all of us to get behind. It can happen anywhere and likely already is.

Rainwater Harvesting in Greater Seattle

seattle-839652_640More and more, folks are reaching out for information on rainwater collection and harvesting practices in the Puget Sound area, especially Greater Seattle.

As we field inquiries, add products and services, we also try to educate about rules and regulations and overall benefits to including rainwater harvesting in new construction plans, as well as the value of capturing rain for renovation projects. Harvested rainwater can be used for so many applications – toilet flushing, laundry, irrigation, vehicle wash down, fire suppression and, in many municipalities, drinking.

Harvested rainwater can be supplemental to city or well water, which reduces load on public water supplies and aging infrastructure and puts the resident or business in charge of the quality of water.

We’ve shared quite a bit of knowledge in our blog posts; here are a couple of articles that may help you decide to move forward with your plans for rainwater collection in your new home, renovation or commercial project:


In October 2009 Washington State revised its water rights laws to allow rainwater collection. King County (Seattle) has adopted rainwater collection for potable use in single-family dwellings, as well. Read more…


The practice of rainwater collection has been around for centuries. Until recently, it was thought to be a “hippie” or “doomsdayer” alternative, but rainwater collection is now increasingly recognized as a viable source of water. Cities throughout the US are supporting and encouraging rainwater catchment and practicable water conservation. Read more…

As always, we encourage you to know your contractor and be sure that the professional you hire for your project has the credentials to take you from start to finish. Ask if your contractor is an ARCSA accredited or certified professional. Members are trained and required to have continuing education in order to provide a safe source of water. Be sure the designer has understanding in the field of water systems and that your contractor has familiarity and expertise in installation.

For those seeking more information in Greater Seattle and Washington state, of course we welcome your inquiries. Go ahead and leave a comment, or contact us privately (we try to respond with 48 hours).