The recent collapse of three water pipes in Monmouth County which left 20,000 New Jerseyans without clean water has all eyes now on the state’s aging water infrastructure.

“There is so much of it that needs to be replaced and there is no financing or commitment to replace everything that needs to be taken care of in the time frame that’s necessary,” said Rick Howlett, executive director of New Jersey Water Association. “Obviously, all water infrastructure is aging from the moment they put it in the ground, but some of it is quite far gone and we just don’t have the resources to keep up.”

New Jersey’s water infrastructure was given a “C” grade back in 2007 by the American Society of Civil Engineers. Much of the state’s piping is nearly 100 years of service.

“There needs to be a renewed commitment to financing and conducting these infrastructure repair projects,” said Howlett.

Costs associated with emergency repairs can be much greater than pre-planned work.

“With emergency projects, streets often have to be ripped up and it can become quite costly. If you have a well planned project that is timed and coordinated properly, you can replace a very long water main all in one shot and then you won’t have to deal with it again for a very long time,” said Howlett. “This is not just a New Jersey problem. It’s an issue nationwide. We can’t continue to go on the way we are right now as repairs and replacements are just being outpaced by the aging of our infrastructure.”

“If something isn’t done, the water main break that happened in Monmouth County certainly won’t be the last,” said Howlett.