Sunday, August 14, 2011


But not a drop to drink, since Republicans have cut taxes and revenues at the state and federal level to the point where we can't even afford to fix our water pipes as a country anymore and it's not helping that record heat is busting pipes across the country either.

Critical water pipelines are breaking from coast to coast, triggered by this summer's record high temperatures. It's not a phenomenon or coincidence, experts say. It's a clear sign that Americans should brace for more water interruptions, accompanied by skyrocketing water bills.

The heat wave of the past few weeks has burst hundreds of crucial pipes in California, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Indiana, Kentucky and New York, temporarily shutting off water to countless consumers just when they needed it most.

"It's one of the worst summers," said Debbie Ragan of Oklahoma City's Utilities Department. As days of 100 degree-plus temperatures bake the region, the utility reports 685 water main breaks since July alone. That's an estimated rate of four times normal. To keep up with repairs, Ragan said, workers have been putting in 12-to 16-hour shifts 24/7.

"It's the heat and the high water usage," Ragan said. 

So what's the solution?  Well, we don't dare raise taxes on our precious American "job creators" so instead, a basic human right like water becomes the latest regressive tax on those who can afford it the least.

The Replacement Era is going to be expensive. The EPA estimated that between 2007 and 2027, drinking water utilities will have to invest $334 billion on new infrastructure.

The problem is worsened by the timing of it all. There's budget-cutting talk at the local, state and federal level. Hawkins called it a "quadruple hit."

"I don't see that there's any way, other than rate increases for most cities given the size of the financial need," Hawkins said. "If we're not able in parallel to demonstrate how we're efficiently using the dollars we're collecting, I think this industry is in for huge challenges with our customers."

Water officials in Pittsburgh are considering raising rates more than 13% for infrastructure improvements. In Cleveland, authorities increased water fees for the same reason. Leaders in Baltimore took similar action.

"With this increase, we can either stop drinking water, stop showering, stop doing the laundry or get out of the city," complained a reader on CNN affiliate WBAL's website. "The mayor and City Council need to realize that we along with other homeowners are the tax base, and if we leave, they're up the creek!"

It doesn't matter.  Not only as a country have we given up on the poor and middle class, but we're making sure the Americans who can least afford to see their water bills jack up right now are the ones bearing the cost of these replacements, but that they will be done in such a fashion that the owners of the water utilities raise prices enough to profit off this.  In places where water utilities are still run by the government, we've cut revenues to the point where they have no choice but to raise rates...because we dare not raise taxes.

When corporations pay zero in taxes, when the wealthiest Americans have the lowest tax burden in decades and use it to enrich themselves, then complain the rest of us have no right in a democracy to demand more from them, this is what happens.

Government small enough to "drown in a bathtub" also can't get the water to the tub because the pipes are broken.