Clean Water Funding Under Attack . . . AGAIN!

When the President’s fiscal year 2006 budget proposal hit the streets on February 8, the reaction was, shall we say, “less than enthusiastic” on the part of most industry sectors -- not the least being OURS! Once again, the clean water state revolving fund has been targeted for drastic reduction with the President only requesting $730 million for this essential program.

By Dawn C. Kristof, WWEMA President

When the President’s fiscal year 2006 budget proposal hit the streets on February 8, the reaction was, shall we say, “less than enthusiastic” on the part of most industry sectors -- not the least being OURS! Once again, the clean water state revolving fund has been targeted for drastic reduction with the President only requesting $730 million for this essential program.

Should Congress acquiesce to the President’s request, the program will be reduced by another $370 million over last year’s funding level. Keep in mind that the program already took a 20% hit during the FY ‘05 budget process, down from its historic level of $1.35 billion to $1.1 billion.

When compared to that $1.35 funding peak, combined the cuts would total about $1 billion. The potential of losing nearly $1 billion in federal assistance to capitalize the state clean water funding programs over the course of two years is indefensible and the implications are unacceptable!

Let’s talk jobs. For every $1 billion cut from the clean water state revolving fund program, 40,000 jobs are LOST!

That fact should not be ignored during these times of stagnant unemployment. The numbers are even more staggering when you take into account the leveraging that occurs for every dollar invested by the federal government in the program. On average, the states have been tremendously successful in leveraging both the federal contributions to the funds as well as their own 20% matching requirements. For each dollar invested by the feds, two dollars are made available to communities to invest in their water and wastewater infrastructure. That implies that as many as 80,000 jobs could be lost during these two years of funding cuts!

Let’s talk projects. For every $1 billion cut from the clean water state revolving fund program, 473 water quality projects will NOT get built!

These projects are critically necessary given the state of our nation’s deteriorating water and wastewater infrastructure. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that between $132 billion and $388 billion will be needed over the next 20 years to close the gap between needs and expenditures in wastewater treatment. Similarly, the Environmental Protection Agency projects that communities across the country will have to spend at least $390 billion over the next 15 years just to meet current clean water infrastructure needs. Failure to make these investments today will result in even greater cost to cash strapped communities tomorrow.

Let’s talk water quality. For every $1 billion cut from the clean water state revolving fund program, the strides we have made as nation to significantly improve our water quality since enactment of the Clean Water Act in 1972 will be reversed!

Over the past 17 years, the clean water state revolving fund program has dispersed more than 14,200 loans - some $47 billion in all - to communities to rehabilitate aging wastewater treatment plants, minimize raw sewage overflows and reduce stormwater. Tremendous progress has been achieved in our nation’s water quality due in large part to the clean water state revolving fund program. Yet, for waters assessed, 16% of river miles, 53% of lakes areas, 55% of estuary square miles and 100% of the Great Lakes still have serious water pollution problems that must be remedied. Not to mention the additional stress being placed upon our nation’s water infrastructure due to population growth and development.

The clean water state revolving fund program has been an extremely effective and efficient funding mechanism for communities, large and small, in addressing their water pollution problems. This is not the time to undermine the program that has been largely credited for the progress made toward protecting our environment.

Congress will face the difficult challenge of adequately funding our nation’s priority needs while reducing a massive federal deficit. What miniscule assistance is being provided to protect the health and safety our nation’s water infrastructure should not be further victimized in the process. Continued funding of the program at the $1.35 billion level is the absolute minimum that should be accepted in order to keep the program functional in serving the needs of communities large and small.

About the author:
Dawn Kristof is president of the Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association. WWEMA member companies are among the world’s leading producers of technology to the water and wastewater industry, employing 43,000 workers with collective sales nearing $6 billion (USD) worldwide.

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