Imagine that a water main feeding a town breaks, and not fixing it because there isn’t money in the budget. We’re celebrating a rite of spring in Michigan, meaning the annual pothole, or road crater, rant, and some of these roads are as dangerous as an interruption in drinking water service.

The good news is the great majority of our infrastructure is performing as intended, though out of sight and out of mind, but the bad news is the portion that isn’t is maddening or downright dangerous.

Many communities and governmental agencies are making progress with asset management programs that identify the condition of their infrastructure and help them prioritize, rather than reacting to emergencies. Investigatory techniques and predictive software are advancing rapidly. What we now need are layman-friendly rankings, updated every few years, that inform the public about these conditions, and when critical infrastructure falls below a minimum standard it should be promptly repaired, with the costs reflected in future rates or taxes. In other words, these rates can’t be set at arbitrary levels that have little or no relation to critical needs.