Who stops flushing their toilet in a recession? If you answered "me," then please go flush first before you come back to read this article.

Besides their obvious stability, water companies have an underground catalyst: ancient pipes. The U.S. is chock-full of decrepit water and sewage pipes -- some wooden -- that need to be replaced. Additionally, cash-strapped municipalities are hawking their utilities to capable private water companies like Aqua America (NYSE: WTR). Aqua America in particular has been buying up smaller utilities to boost its growth rate.

Other utilities include York Water (Nasdaq: YORW) and California Water (NYSE: CWT). A more aggressive play could be hard-goods maker Mueller Water Products (NYSE: MWA), while international investors may want to peck at a larger conglomerate such as Veolia (NYSE: VE) or GDF Suez spinoff Suez Environment.

Watch the video for more on the water industry:

James Early owns no stocks mentioned. GDF Suez is a Motley Fool Global Gainsrecommendation. Mueller Water Products is a Motley Fool Hidden Gems pick. California Water Service Group and Aqua America are Motley Fool Income Investorchoices. The Fool owns shares of California Water Service Group. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

True to its name, The Motley Fool is made up of a motley assortment of writers and analysts, each with a unique perspective; sometimes we agree, sometimes we disagree, but we all believe in the power of learning from each other through our Foolish community. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.