America's aging infrastructure can't handle the heat

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California might have avoided rolling blackouts so far this week, but tens of thousands of homes still lost electricity for hours as aging power system components conked out in the 100-plus degree heat. My house was one of them, and it reached an unhealthy 92 degrees inside by the time the power came back on five hours later. People without options for cooling are facing far worse. 

It’s just the latest sign that America’s aging infrastructure is in trouble. Think about this: A water main breaks somewhere in the country every two minutes. About a third of the nation’s bridges need rehabilitation or replacement. And the average dam is past its expected life span. Jackson, Mississippi, lost safe drinking water during flooding in late August in an ongoing problem with an aging water treatment plant.

University of Colorado civil engineer Paul Chinowsky explains the troubled state of the nation’s essential infrastructure, particularly in low-income communities and communities of color, and how climate change on top of a trillion-dollar maintenance backlog threatens to make the 2020s the age of infrastructure failure.

Also today:

Stacy Morford

Environment + Climate Editor

Volunteers distributed bottled water after Jackson, Mississippi’s water treatment plant failed during flooding in August 2022. Brad Vest/Getty Images

Intense heat waves and flooding are battering electricity and water systems, as America’s aging infrastructure sags under the pressure of climate change

Paul Chinowsky, University of Colorado Boulder

A heat wave that pushed California’s power grid to the limit, and the water system failure in Jackson, Mississippi, are just two examples.

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