New Jersey’s water system is in need of infrastructure improvements to prevent the loss of water before it reaches customers. New Jersey Water Association Executive Director Richard Howlett told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that the problem is serious and hidden and could cause problems with water quality and reliability.
Howlett confirmed that some areas lose up to 30 percent of the water, which becomes costly. “It takes a lot of effort and it takes a lot of energy and money to produce good, clean drinking water,” he explained. “It has to be pumped, it has to be treated, it has to be disinfected and when that water is lost through a leaky distribution system, it costs everyone.”
Old pipes are to blame for the water loss, according to Howlett. “There are a lot of pipes that have been in the ground for 100 years and most of the time they have about a 40-year lifespan that would be expected for them,” he said. “They get corroded, they break, water leaks from them. It can affect water quality and a lot of other things. It’s a very expensive problem not to fix frankly.”
Howlett said a lack of political will has kept the status quo, largely because the problem is hidden from view. “It’s a lot less glamorous to replace the infrastructure and quite frankly it is expensive. A project like a road repair or a new road is much more showy and people like seeing that and you can see the results of it,” he explained. “If people fix water mains and replace a nice length of water main, nobody really knows expect for the time that the roads are being dug up and they’re being inconvenienced in traffic.”
While it may not be a popular decision to fix the water system’s infrastructure, Howlett said it needs to be done. “Politically, it’s difficult to raise water rates and people don’t want to pay more for their water bills, but it catches up with you in the long run,” he said.