Imagine that you’re sitting at home and your children are thirsty. You go to get a glass of water for them, but realize you can’t because the water from the faucet has been heavily polluted with high levels of nitrates due to increased use of fertilizers and hydraulic fracking. This scenario could become a reality in the near future.

Perhaps you’ve seen videos on YouTube in which people are able to light their tap water on fire. It’s difficult to imagine that these problems could be happening in the U.S, but water is becoming more polluted with each passing day.

Water containing high levels of nitrates has led to an increase in Blue baby syndrome. When infants drink this polluted water, they experience shortness of breath and their skin turns blue as the nitrates in the water deprive the baby’s blood of oxygen.

Blue baby syndrome has occurred in cities throughout the U.S., notably in Iowa. Despite the fact that there have been modest improvements in our infrastructure and the Environmental Protection Agency’s standards, Blue baby syndrome continues to haunt many American families. Such health-related problems have occurred for the past several decades, but we still have not found a way to resolve these issues. In fact, as recently as 2011, Iowa’s Department of Natural Resources reported high levels of nitrates in tap water, according to the Des Moines Register.

Even more disturbing, though there have been improvements in environmental standards and infrastructure, the quality of that infrastructure has not improved. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, the U.S. earned a “D” grade for its water quality in 2009. Each year, America faces an annual shortfall of at least $20 billion to maintain its water infrastructure. This number has been increasing for the past several years, and if we are not careful, it will continue to rise with time.

Water quality is only the tip of the iceberg for our country’s crumbling infrastructure. Due to the lack of global competition, Americans have fallen into a state of complacency, thinking that repairing water systems and bridges isn’t important because the U.S. is already successful and influential. Moreover, many Americans have simply accepted the fact that our infrastructure is falling apart. As a result, the costs of our crumbling infrastructure has been increasing. The American Society of Civil Engineers reported in 2009 that a $2.2 trillion investment over five years needed to be made to improve American infrastructure, which was an increase from $1.6 trillion in 2005. If we wait any longer, those costs will continue to rise.

Action won’t be taken unless our government places value on water or any other area of infrastructure, for that matter. Our government hasn’t paid attention to water because it has been viewed as a renewable resource. But water is a limited resource that must be looked after carefully. Many Americans have sat by idly while our water supply has become polluted. Waiting around is no longer an option, as the amount of available fresh water is running out. We must take care of this resource before it’s too late.

If we don’t act now America will likely suffer greatly in the future. We can no longer afford to rely on future generations to fix our infrastructure. It is time that we spend the appropriate amount of money to resolve these deficiencies. If we continue to do nothing, future generations may be susceptible to Blue baby syndrome, just a small example of the many problems that will likely arise from crumbling infrastructure.

Paul Sherman is a LSA sophomore.

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