Infographic: Timeline of American Water Infrastructure Development (1651-2011)

From small water-supply systems in the Colonial Era to massive investments in reservoirs, pumps, pipes, and treatment plants in the 20th century, America’s water infrastructure has become more complex. Now, at the start of the 21st century, many of those systems need maintenance and repairs.

In the United States, turning on the tap and receiving clean water is viewed as so basic to the quality of life that many people take it for granted. But, as this detailed and interactive timeline shows, it has been a long road to supply running water to virtually every household in the country, and maintaining these investments continues into the modern era.

Infographic: The Path of Water Infrastructure Development in the United States

Infographic © Katelin Carter/Ball State University for Circle of Blue
Click on the interactive infographic above to learn more about the path to water infrastructure development in the United States. Click on an era at the top, then roll over an icon at the bottom for details of the event that occurred that year.


  • Melosi, Martin V. The Sanitary City. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000.
  • Rowland, W.G. “Water and the Growth of the Nation.” Water Pollution Control Federation Journal 48.7, 1976.
  • Congressional Research Service. “Water Infrastructure Needs and Investment: Review and Analysis of Key Issues.” 2010.

Infographic by Katelin Carter, a student of Ball State University’s journalism graphics program, for Circle of Blue, with contribution by Brett Walton, a Seattle-based reporter for Circle of Blue. This graphic was made to accompany Walton’s report, America’s Water Infrastructure Shows Its Age — The National Debate About How to Pay for Repairs. Contact Brett Walton

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