If the ongoing Flint water crisis has taught us anything, it’s that providing clean running water to millions of people is an optional luxury. Wait, that’s not right.
But without being sarcastic, it’s difficult to understand why Mayor de Blasio has postponed further work on Water Tunnel 3, a vital infrastructure program to safeguard water supplies to Queens and Brooklyn.
New York City currently relies on two water tunnels, the imaginatively named Water Tunnels 1 and 2, to supply water to the city. If Water Tunnel 2, built in 1935, were to fail, all of Queens and Brooklyn would be left without water for at least three months.
The danger has been long known, which is why work began in 1970 on Water Tunnel 3, a project that supplements the existing tunnels. The first two stages were completed in 2013, bringing water into Manhattan, but Queens and Brooklyn were left out in the cold. That leg of the tunnel was supposed to be completed by 2021, but the New York Times reports that De Blasio’s administration has cancelled funding, and there’s no current timeline for completion of the project.
The change in policy was intended to help control budgets, but it’s deeply flawed for some rather obvious reasons. Most obviously, it’s hinging thousands of lives and billions of dollars on an 80-year-old piece of infrastructure not breaking. Worse, the tunnel is already close to completion: most of the tunnel is finished, and only two shafts need to be dug to bring everything online.
Sure, you can argue the economic side of it—a water tunnel is the very definition of a sunk cost, and the $360 million needed to finish the project is still a bunch of money. But with interest rates at rock-bottom, now is actually an excellent time to be investing in infrastructure projects, especially those required to bring drinking water to inhabitants of this country’s largest city.