At stake is the continued availability of clean, cheap drinking water — a public health achievement that has fueled the nation's growth for generations.
"The future is getting a little dark for something as basic and fundamental as water," said Adam Krantz of the Water Infrastructure Network, a lobbying group that is fighting cuts to key federal water programs.
"That's the key that Americans have to understand: If they want this system, they are going to have to be willing to finance it," said Greg DiLoreto, past president of the American Society of Civil Engineers, which has warned of a future with more equipment failures that will disrupt water service, transportation and commerce.
New Orleans once boasted about not raising water rates for two decades. But in 2012, the city approved 10 percent increases on water bills for eight straight years as part of a plan to fix its crumbling system. The average household's monthly water-and-sewer bill will climb to $115 by 2020.
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