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We’ve heard about the drought-driven water shortages panning out globally. But the other problem in the mix is the vast amount of water lost due to leaky pipes, the natural result of unmaintained, historic water infrastructures. In Italy, a whopping 42% of water transported is lost before reaching customers. That’s why the country is allocating a portion of its pandemic relief package from the E.U. to address the issue. The country’s southern region of Puglia is getting priority, where rainfall is projected to continue to diminish in an area without other water sources like natural rivers or streams.
Though the funds alone are half the battle. Italy’s water system was first constructed by Romans two millennia ago, and the long neglect has left this generation with a lot to do. The first step in fixing them is identifying all the potential leaks, a labor-intensive initiative where human teams review all 13,000 miles of pipes block-by-block. An entire day’s work can result in just one leak found.
Meanwhile in the U.S., severe weather continues to damage nearly 100-year-old pipes already riddled with leaks. Fixing them is estimated to cost up to one trillion dollars, with no money set aside yet. As a result, an estimated two trillion gallons of water is lost in the U.S. every year. Chicago’s leaks alone could serve water to 700,000 people. With such large losses, some believe these infrastructure repairs — alongside water efficiency measures — could alleviate drought-related water shortages. And while a number of key water bills have been introduced this year, none directly address leaking pipes.