Water infrastructure on the island of Puerto Rico desperately needs funding in order to be capable of supplying clean water to all residents. The 2019 American Society of Civil Engineers Report Card found that the island needs to increase infrastructure by $1 billion per year. Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority delivers water to over 95% of the population, mainly in more populated areas. The cost of installing and maintaining water systems is high, and PRASA is unable to invest the money needed to get water to less populated areas like remote villages. The costs are not mitigated by residents paying in to the system as “there is a common cultural belief that water is a right and the users should not have to pay for it.”
Decades of a lack of infrastructure funding has also impacted water quality. In 2019, 410 of the water delivery systems on the island violated EPA water quality standards. 112 of those had “serious violations.” According to the National Resources Defense Council, much of Puerto Rico’s drinking water is currently contaminated with “toxins such as heavy metals, bacterial pathogens, and synthetic and volatile organic contaminants.” Recent data from the federal government shows some locations failing to test for and report levels of lead.
In July, the Biden administration announced a Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework of $307 million to replace all lead pipes and service lines in the country, including 34 states and Puerto Rico. President Biden has also created a federal working group to provide resources and technical assistance to the island.
Clean water is necessary for healthy living. Providing the money and resources to provide clean water is the right thing to do.
By Ellie Cabell
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