How hot has it been? The first 9 days of August saw “Heat Records Outnumbering Cold Records by Amazing 24 to 1,” CapitalClimate reported.
This year’s record heat has spawned cow-killing algae, caused sidewalks to explode, and turned reservoirs blood-red. Now it’s causing an even costlier problem for communities in the U.S. – exploding water pipes.
As severe heat dries out the ground, old pipes shift around and are more susceptible to breaking. The problem is exacerbated by an increased demand for water during hot days. Towns across the U.S. are seeing increased rates of water pipe failures; Oklahoma saw 685 water main breaks since July – about four times the normal rate.
Kemp, Texas was the most recent victim. Last Wednesday, town officials were forced to shut off water supplies for the 1,110 residents after 14 water pipes burst:
Kemp Mayor Donald Kile says the old infrastructure has a lot to do with the problem. The local water treatment plant was last replaced 40 years ago, and a lot of the town’s 30 miles of pipelines were installed in the 1930s and haven’t been updated in years.
“It’s sad to say, but it’s poor planning,” said Kile, who was elected mayor recently. “When they put that water treatment plant in, they should have implemented something then…. It just wasn’t ever done.”
With virtually no updates to its water infrastructure in 40 years, Kemp is facing a serious water-reliability crisis. And the town is representative of the rest of the country: the Environmental protection agency says that about 700 water main ruptures take place in the U.S. daily because of aging pipelines. The EPA estimates the U.S. will need to invest in over $334 billion in water infrastructure over the next 25 years.
Climate change will make the problem far worse.