46 Million Americans Are Water Insecure

1 trillion dollars. That’s the amount needed to repair or replace America’s aging water infrastructure, according to the EPA and the American Water Works Association.

Since that’s obviously out of the question, what about $18.4 billion? That’s what experts say is required to bring water security to more people. 

That won’t happen either. But if something isn’t done, more Americans will become water insecure. Currently, over 46 million people in the U.S. are already there.

Water Contaminations Are Frequent

What is water insecurity? It’s when you have no running water in your home. Or the water coming out of your faucets is unsafe to drink.

There have been plenty of high-profile cases of unsafe water in America over the past 10 years. Including in places such as Flint, Michigan. And Newark, New Jersey. And Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 

But lower-profile cases occur much more frequently. Including in places such as Grapeland, Texas and Tallulah, Louisiana.

As well as in parts of other states. Such as Idaho, Nevada, South Dakota, Kansas, and New Hampshire. 

Boiling Water for 10 Years?

Extreme weather and other emergency situations including train derailments can result in boil advisories. They are usually temporary.

But in places such as McDowell County, West Virginia, it’s become a way of life for people. Some residents have been under a boil water advisory for 10 years. 

That’s what happens when a 120-year-old water treatment system fails as theirs did. That’s what I call water insecurity.

Other folks are water insecure because they don’t have indoor plumbing or running water. They have to haul water from another source. And finding a safe source can be challenging.

DigDeep is a water accessibility nonprofit. They say 2.2 million people in the U.S. don’t have running water in their homes. They have no toilets, sinks or bathtubs. DigDeep founder George McGraw said, “For the first time in U.S. history, we’re going backwards in water access.” 

It Can Happen Quickly

A moment ago I mentioned train derailments. Perhaps you recall the one that occurred in East Palestine, Ohio early this year.

Six months later they were still cleaning up the mess that caused water contaminations and evacuations. The estimated cost for dealing with removing all the hazardous chemicals and the subsequent lawsuits was $803 million. 

This community of approximately 5,000 people had been enjoying safe water with little concerns about problems.

But then the derailment involving 38 train cars occurred. Several of those cars burned for days after the accident. The list of contaminants that seeped into local water supplies is too long to mention. 

Fortunately, some water is contaminated only with bacteria and pathogens. Many of which can be nearly eliminated by boiling water.

Warnings, Tips & Tricks

Water contaminations can happen to anyone, anywhere, and anytime. What if it happens to you? Do you have ways to remove at least some of the potential contaminants that could get into your drinking water? 


Here are a few warnings and suggestions from FEMA:

  • Don’t drink water you suspect is contaminated. It can lead to illness.
  • Don’t use suspected or contaminated water to wash dishes, brush your teeth, wash and prepare food, and make ice or baby formula.
  • Don’t use water from radiators, hot water boilers, or water beds.
  • Don’t boil water suspected to be contaminated with fuel or toxic chemicals.  


Here are three ways to rid water of some bacteria and pathogens:

  • Boil water for about 5 minutes.
  • Disinfect water using unscented household chlorine bleach or iodine.
  • Filter water through a clean cloth, paper towel, or coffee filter. 


Finally, here are a few emergency water sources:

  • Take water from your home’s water heater tank that is part of your drinking water system. Not your home heating system.
  • Melt ice cubes that were frozen prior to contamination.
  • Take water from your home’s toilet tank (not from the bowl), assuming it is clear and has not been chemically treated. Then filter this water.
  • Take liquid from canned fruit and vegetables.
  • Use water from swimming pools, spas and collected rainwater for personal hygiene and cleaning, but not for drinking. 


Melting Snow Is an Option 

As we head toward winter, you may get snow in your area of the country. If so, melting it could provide you with cleaner water in an emergency.

Snow is mostly water, of course. But depending on where you live, it could also contain sulfates, nitrates, formaldehyde, or mercury. A snowflake can function as a “net” in which it catches atmospheric pollutants.

If a snowfall lasts four hours, for example, the snow that falls during the fourth hour will be cleaner than snow falling in the first hour.

One water researcher describes falling snow as a scrub brush for the atmosphere. The earlier snow will soak up more than the later snow. 

Regardless, boiling snow should remove anything that might otherwise cause illness. And if you’re stranded and need water, boiled snow is a good option.

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