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Boost federal funding for water supply

Boost federal funding for water supply

Water is our most precious commodity, and we're not doing enough to protect it

We drink it. We cook with it. We wash the dishes with it. We bathe in it. We use it to feed our vegetable gardens, the bounty of which we then eat. We swim in it. About 55 to 75 percent of our bodies are made up of it.

Anyone guess what it is yet?

Just kidding. It's water.

Water is our most precious natural resource. Yet through our collective inattention to our water supply and delivery system over many years, water is one of our most threatened commodities.

Water pipes built out materials not designed to last forever were put into the ground decades ago and are now falling apart. Water main breaks are now as common as coffee breaks.

We saw the devastation when an aging water main in Troy that helped supply surrounding communities broke in January. We see it in our area all the time. In Niskayuna, nine water mains broke in the span of a few hours last month. Rotterdam has had five water main breaks already in 2016, and we're not even a quarter of the way through the year yet.

Another threat to our water system is pollution. In this day and age, it's inconceivable that any company could discharge poisonous chemicals into the ground or into an insecure collection system undetected. These discharges allow the poisons to spread to underground aquifers, public reservoirs and private wells -- from which the contaminated water eventually finds its way into our homes and into our bodies.

Hoosick Falls and Flint, Mich., are just two recent examples. Hundreds of Flints are looming all over the country.

Repairs cost millions of dollars and threaten the public's health. And if we don't get a handle on the problem now, we're going to keep paying, both financially and physically.

For all the money it wastes on bloated bureaucracies, outlandish purchases and incompetence, government still doesn't spend a fraction of what is needed to protect the water supply.

So we're encouraged by a bill co-sponsored by Congressman Paul Tonko to get the federal government to up its investment in fixing this overriding problem. The Assistance, Quality and Affordability Act (AQUA) would permanently reauthorize the 2003 Safe Water Drinking Act and significantly boost the federal government's investment in the water supply.

Under the legislation, the feds would triple annual spending to more than $3 billion to provide long-term funding for water supplies. The available pool of money would increase annually through 2021.

Even modest repairs to damaged pipes can cost millions of dollars, money that communities are increasingly struggling to find. If the aging infrastructure and damage done by chemical leaks isn't addressed, the costs will only escalate as the problems continue.

Now is the time for the country to invest in its water supply.

What else could be more important than that?

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