Congress Votes for Increased SRF Funding

March 1, 2007
The House of Representatives has passed a fiscal 2007 appropriations bill that would increase funding for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (Clean Water SRF) to $1.

The House of Representatives has passed a fiscal 2007 appropriations bill that would increase funding for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (Clean Water SRF) to $1.1 billion. The fund is the primary federal program for funding wastewater infrastructure projects.

The $463.5 billion continuing resolution (CR) generally extended fiscal 2006 funding for federal agencies for the remaining eight months of fiscal 2007. The CR included $7.9 billion for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Democratic leaders of the House and Senate appropriations committees increased funding for the Clean Water SRF to $1.1 billion in the CR. In the spending bill that failed to pass in the last Congress, the SRF was due to be reduced $200 million to $688 million.

In January, the Bush Administration’s fiscal 2008 budget proposal also proposed $688 million for fiscal 2008.

Rep. James L. Oberstar (D-Minn.), chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, said the Bush budget proposal failed to meet the nation’s water and other infrastructure needs. Barbara Boxer, (D-Calif.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, agreed.

“I will be working with my colleagues to restore funding for these important protections,” she said.

Meanwhile, 21 environmental groups offered their own “green” budget blueprint for fiscal 2008, which begins Oct. 1. They urged a boost in the Clean Water SRF to $1.105 billion.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee subsequently passed a bill authorizing $20 billion over five years for the Clean Water SRF. Although the bill would approve the size of the program, Congress would have to appropriate the funds annually.

The measure would allow states to forgive loans and provide negative interest loans. States would have to offer additional funds to help disadvantaged communities and encourage loan recipients to adopt asset management planning and financing plans.

The bill also would require a study on potential funding sources to create a clean water trust fund similar to the highway trust fund.

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), chairwoman of the Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee, said, “The EPA and others estimate a shortfall of between $300 to $400 billion over the next 20 years for necessary wastewater infrastructure improvements, with an annual funding gap of between $3 billion and $11 billion over current expenditures. This shortfall is significant, because without considerable improvements to the wastewater treatment infrastructure, much of the progress made in cleaning up the nation’s waters since the passage of the Clean Water Act is at risk.”

The National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) supported the bill.

“This is a very important first step in our efforts to meet the high-priority needs of clean water utilities across the nation,” said Ken Kirk, NACWA executive director. “However, without a dedicated source of funding, the progress we have made over the past 35 years to clean up the nation’s waters will be lost.”

The committee also approved two related bills. The Healthy Communities Water Supply Act reauthorizes $125 million for EPA alternative water source grants (under the Clean Water Act Section 220 program). Eligible projects include those designed to conserve, manage, reclaim, or reuse water or wastewater, or treat wastewater to meet critical municipal, industrial, and agricultural water supply needs.

The Water Quality Investment Act would authorize $3 billion over six years (increasing from $250 million in fiscal 2008 to $750 million in fiscal 2013) for grants to help communities control combined sewer overflows (CSOs) and sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs) that can occur during wet weather.

AWWA rejects WEF merger proposal

The Water Environment Federation (WEF) and the American Water Works Association (AWWA) were discussing how to improve cooperation after AWWA rebuffed a WEF merger proposal in January.

The WEF board unanimously approved a resolution on Jan. 19 to seek the creation of a single North American water association. But AWWA said its directors thought the WEF proposal was “not fully developed” and instead offered “to pursue an ongoing dialogue with WEF leadership to achieve a more coordinated voice for the water community.”

It added, “AWWA believes this continuing conversation will serve both organizations well and may illuminate unseen opportunities where they exist.”

WEF President Mohamed Dahab said, “WEF strongly believes that ensuring one strong voice for water would better serve our members and our communities by strengthening clean water initiatives in protecting public health and the environment. We are disappointed we have lost this opportunity with AWWA for now, but the Federation remains committed to moving forward to partner with water organizations in and outside North America to achieve this vision.”

WEF said, “The current divide between water supply and water quality pervades many aspects of the water community, leaving gaps in the protection of public health that other, less specialized groups will fill.”

It said the world looks to North America for technical advances and leadership in water policy. WEF said it is committed to “preserving and enhancing the global water environment” and will continue to seek opportunities to provide leadership and technical expertise to water professionals.

EPA Sets Standards For Efficient Toilets

EPA has issued specifications for the latest generation of water-saving, high-efficiency toilets. It said toilets that use less than 1.3 gallons per flush and meet performance standards will qualify for its WaterSense label.

“The WaterSense label will help consumers identify high performing, water efficient products,” said Benjamin Grumbles, EPA assistant administrator for water. “By purchasing WaterSense labeled plumbing fixtures, consumers can help protect the water supply and their wallets.”

The new toilets are the product of fluid dynamics research conducted over the last six years. While their exteriors differ little from existing toilets, interior redesign has significantly improved flow and reduced water usage.

EPA has determined that toilets account for nearly a third of home water consumption and high-efficiency toilets can reduce water bills by 10%. It said replacing older toilets with the new design could save more than 900 billion gallons a year -- enough to supply almost 10 million households.

Arsenic Contest Winners Announced

The National Academy of Engineering has announced the winners of a $1 million contest to remove arsenic from drinking water.

The 2007 Grainger Challenge required the winning systems to be affordable, reliable, easy to maintain, socially acceptable, and environmentally friendly. The winning systems do not require electricity.

Abul Hussam, an associate professor in the department of chemistry and biochemistry at George Mason University, Fairfax, Va., was due to receive the gold award of $1 million for his SONO household water filter.

It uses a top bucket filled with locally available coarse river sand and a composite iron matrix (CIM). The sand filters coarse particles impart mechanical stability while the CIM removes inorganic arsenic. The water then flows into a second bucket where it again filters through coarse river sand, then wood charcoal to remove organics, and finally through fine river sand and wet brick chips to remove fine particles and stabilize water flow. The SONO filter is being used in Bangladesh.

Arup SenGupta, John Greenleaf, Lee Blaney, Owen Boyd, Arun Deb, and the organization Water For People will share the silver award of $200,000 for their community water treatment system.

SenGupta is a professor at Lehigh University; Boyd is chief executive officer of SolmeteX Co. in Northborough, Mass.; Deb is a retired vice president of Roy F. Weston Inc. (now Weston Solutions Inc.) in West Chester, Pa.; Greenleaf is a Lehigh doctorial candidate in civil and environmental engineering; and Blaney recently earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering at Lehigh.

The arsenic removal system is applied at a community wellhead serving about 300 households. Water is hand-pumped into a fixed-bed column, where it passes through activated alumina or hybrid anion exchanger to remove the arsenic. After passing through a chamber of graded gravel to remove particulates, the water is ready to drink. The system has been used at 160 locations in West Bengal, India.

The Children’s Safe Drinking Water Program at Procter & Gamble Co., Cincinnati, will receive the bronze award of $100,000 for the PUR coagulation and flocculation water treatment system.

It combines chemicals for disinfection, coagulation, and flocculation in a sachet that can treat small batches of water in the home. First, the sachet contents are stirred into a 10 liter bucket of water for five minutes. As the water rests for another five minutes, arsenic and other contaminants separate out. The water is then poured through a clean cloth to filter out the contaminants. After 20 minutes to complete the disinfection process, the water is safe to drink.

As part of P&G’s philanthropy program, the Children’s Safe Water Drinking Program has worked with partners to provide 57 million sachets in more than 30 countries over the past three years, enough to purify more than 570 million liters of drinking water.

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