The state conducted an audit looking at water rates in Louisiana and found the rates many rural communities are paying, don’t produce enough revenue to keep up with the water system, leading to poor drinking water quality. State Health Officer Dr. Jimmy Guidry says big cities have a better quality of water because of number of people paying, but poor communities like, St. Joseph, have failing systems.

“In Louisiana, around 60% of water systems are between 30-years-old and 50-years-old, those water systems, if they’re not maintained and repaired they’re going to need to be replaced.”

The EPA finds Louisiana water systems would need to spend $5.3 billion on drinking water infrastructure over the next 20 years. Guidry says with the state’s budget problems, it’s hard to prioritize where drinking water fits in. He says many people don’t want to pay more to fix the problem.

“Sometimes we get a water quality complaint, such as color, then we work with the water system to fix it, then we get complaints from the same people saying that their rates are too high.”

The American Society of Civil Engineers rated the Bayou State’s drinking water infrastructure a D+. The state audit found that 41% of local water systems tested had expenses that exceed revenue. Guidry says if you don’t keep up with an aging system, the repair costs continue to rise. He hopes this audit makes residents and elected officials realize drinking water is a key part of our heath.

“If they don’t pay there, they’re paying when they go to the grocery store to buy bottled water. So, they’re going to have to decide are we willing to pay higher rates to have the drinking water come out of the tap.”