Uh Oh “DC Water Manager Says District’s Infrastructure in Critical State”

by Prince Of Petworth June 5, 2014 at 3:15 pm 25 Comments

From an email:

“In the video, Hawkins says that the 750 miles of pipe in the District have a median age of 96 years, and that some sewer lines were put in during the Civil War. He also points out that these pipes face a 200-year replacement cycle – the older these pipes get, the more problems they cause. A sinkhole that appeared Tuesday on G street is evidence of this aging infrastructure below the pavement.

The video of Hawkins comes from a panel event hosted by the Value of Water Coalition last month as part of Infrastructure Week 2014 (the moderator is Cathleen Kelly from the Center for American Progress).

The panel sought to point out that the challenges DC faces are not unique to this city, but are present across the nation: in the U.S., a water main breaks every two minutes, and we lose 1.7 trillion gallons of treated drinking water every year.”


  • meh

    Tax Cuts for everyone.

  • soozles

    The infrastructure issue is huge. Local government groups have been pushing for a while to get a water infrastructure trust fund, similar to what they have for highways and airports, but it meets resistance because there is not an obvious financing mechanism. For roads, they crank up the gas tax; for airports, they add a fee to your ticket. They’ve explored alternatives such as putting a tax on so-called flushable items (tp, etc.) or a bottle tax, but…..Also, water infrastructure, especially sewers, is not sexy, nor is it visible until a line bursts and interferes with rush hour.

    • Anonymous

      Or they could just put a tax on water consumption? Every building needs water. Seems like a no-brainer way to build a water infrastructure trust fund. Water is already severely under-priced.

      • Anon

        The problem is that we / they neglected the infrastructure for 50-100 years, and now we’re trying to fix it. People made money / got elected by keeping rates low for decades by not doing enough maintenance.

        People are paying a healthy tax. Right now the average is water+sewer bill is $53 + $23 in taxes and fees(*). Even neglecting the “metering fee” (wtf isn’t that in the rates?) we’re talking a 37% tax rate. I don’t think any of those taxes are being invested to address these infrastructure issues, and I agree that we ought to re-think how this is being charged for and where the money’s going. But there’s a good tax going already.

        (*) The Clean Rivers charge is proportional to impervious area, not consumption. But it is a tax on water that boosts the price paid.

  • is there a better way than 311 to report ruptured pipes? there’s one at 10th & Quincy Sts NW that has been bubbling out of a manhole cover (at least) since yesterday morning. i tried to report it using the app but there wasn’t a good option, so i called 311 and they transferred me to someone/some department. but when i left for work again this morning it was STILL bubbling, and i didn’t have time to wait on hold with 311 again. what a waste of water.

    • Anonymous

      I would contact the people responsible for the water and the pipes. That would be DC Water.

      • makes sense, but still annoying that the 311 app doesn’t have an option for this type of thing. will be interesting to see if it’s STILL bubbling when i get home tonight. i guess while i’m sitting here wasting time on PoP i could look up the DC water # :)

      • Anon 4:15

        Oops, forgot to say that phone numbers, email addresses and a “contact us” form can be found on their website.

        • thanks- just found their “report a problem” form. i still think this should be an option on the 311 app…

          • textdoc

            If I remember correctly, D.C. Water is some kind of quasi-private entity, rather than part of the D.C. government. But not everyone is going to know that, so 311 ought to be better at routing those calls/inquiries where they need to go.

          • thanks textdoc. i didn’t realize what the relationship b/n dc water and the city gov’t was, but you ought to be able to report utility issues (outside of those in your home/property) through 311. i’ll gladly call/report things via 311 since it’s easy, but having to look up the right entity, and then their phone number, and then wade through automated phone options is just a PITA.

    • textdoc

      D.C. Water has a 24/7 “water and sewer emergencies” number: 202-612-3400

      • thanks! i’ll try and remember to save it in my phone…

  • ClevelandDave

    Uh, apparently you haven’t been paying attention PoP. Hawkins has been saying this, indeed this exact spiel for at least two years. Furthermore, he has a plan to fix it- problem is the water bills for city residents will rise 400 percent over the next five or so years to pay for it. As he will remind you though, it works out to only pennies a gallon…

    • Anonymous

      We’re going to pay for it one way or another. Make it a water consumption tax. But even that might not be enough.

      • Anonymous

        Between water pipes and natural gas pipeline, DC is in serious trouble. It’s really a public safety and health issue. People don’t understand what is happening below the ground because they can’t physically see it. Glad to see this critical issue getting attention.

  • mona

    Yeah, I wouldn’t believe everything Hawkins has to say. He has a financial interest in a lot of this. They told Bloomingdale that because they had all the flooding in 2012 that they had to go under a huge, expensive renovation that is really not necessary. They are constructing a huge tunnel 100ft under ground that is potentially putting a lot of properties in jeopardy structurally and costing the people who live up there a lot of pain and grief. Turns out once DC Water did their job and cleaned out sewers and drainage areas and the minor construction jobs that occurred at RI ave there hasn’t been any more flooding. They have had considerable rain periods since then (last week) and no flooding. What is the motivation for DC Water to say everything needs to be replaced? Money!!

    • Tim

      Did you watch the video? This infrastructure’s median age is 96 years. We have spent a pittance on maintaining our infrastructure. DC Water is a government agency, not a company. It does not make a profit. Hawkins makes a salary, yes. And he has a budget to watch out for. But it’s a lot more expensive to them (and to their customers) to make emergency repairs than to actually keep up the infrastructure. And that tunnel they’re building is so that raw sewage doesn’t go into the rivers and Rock Creek Park. Jesus christ. It’s because of people like you that this country’s infrastructure is failing.

      • Anonymous

        But I dooooooon’t wannnnnnnnnnna spend any money…..

        • Anonymous

          The whine of every American everywhere.
          I sometimes wish we could just import the entire Dutch political class to teach our lawmakers and bureaucrats how to efficiently tax and spend. We do such a shitty job of it.

      • eastof9

        The First Street Tunnel that Mona references is not to prevent raw sewage from going into the Anacostia. That’s the Northeast Boundary Tunnel. The First Street Tunnel is an add on project, purportedly to prevent flooding in Bloomingdale. As Mona notes, the flooding problems seem to have been alleviated by the steps DC Water as already taken. In terms of additional motivation, I believe part of the purpose of this project is to enable economic development north of Bloomingdale. As Allen Lew stated: “This project is critical because it not only helps mitigate the flooding problem, but provides much-needed additional capacity for future economic development opportunities in the area.” http://mayor.dc.gov/release/district-breaks-ground-large-scale-flood-relief-bloomingdale-and-ledroit-park

      • Mona

        Hey Tim, before you get on your high horse I am talking about the 1st st tunnel that is to alleviate the flooding in bloomingdale. It seems that isn’t the real reason for that tunnel and a huge expense, by that I mean billions, is being spent for something that may have already been taken care of. If the city has some other reason to torture the people in Bloomingdale for the next 2yrs then they should be honest about it and say so. As for Hawkins, well Skank-Jenkel is making big bucks for this and DC’s government isn’t know for their honesty(how many councilmen are in or headed to jail) so you put two and two together.

        • eastof9

          Make no mistake: there are entities profiting at the great expense of Bloomingdale residents. For those who aren’t familiar, there will be 100-foot holes in front of people’s houses, and some residential streets shut down with wall-to-wall construction for 2 years. Most of these houses impacted by construction never had flooding. The financial beneficiaries of this project include the developers north of Bloomingdale, and the city who will profit from the tax base. In addition to the contractor doing the project. I’m not saying this had nothing to do with flooding, but that’s only a sliver of what’s going on here.

  • rejamaphone

    i got your 750 miles of pipe right here. o wait this might be serious.

  • brookland_rez

    The suburbs have it worse. With all that sprawl construction, updating infrastructure is even more costly. A lot of it was built in haste and cheaply.


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