Dealing with these aging pipes, including repairing or replacing them or losing untold gallons to leaks, is costing water utilities an increasing amount of money. In Cleveland, for example, the water department is spending $25 million a year replacing its aging pipes and passing the costs on to consumers. Nationwide, experts estimate that updating the deteriorating system will cost about $1 trillion by 2039.
Meanwhile, federal funding hasn't kept up with the need. In the past three decades, the federal government's funding of water infrastructure has dwindled from 63 percent of total spending on water projects in 1977 to only 9 percent in 2014.