CWSRF Funding Key to Health of Industry

Failure to maintain funding for the Clean Water State Revolving fund could slow or stop many water projects and lead to an increase in sewage overflows...

by James Laughlin

Failure to maintain funding for the Clean Water State Revolving fund could slow or stop many water projects and lead to an increase in sewage overflows, polluted water and disease outbreaks in local communities, according to a recent report prepared by a coalition of water and environmental groups.

The report, "All Dried Up: How Clean Water is Threatened by Budget Cuts," was sent to targeted members of Congress to encourage them to support the SRF program.

While the Senate has approved full funding for the SRF program, the House in July approved a bill that would cut the program by some $500 million. While final action is still to be determined, Pres. Bush is pressing for cutbacks in federal spending and the fate of the SRF program is very much up in the air.

If the cuts are enacted, federal funding for water infrastructure will be slashed by an average of $1 million in every Congressional district throughout the United States. The impact of these cuts more than doubles when taking into account the loss of additional money leveraged at the local level, according to the report.

In addition, an estimated $4.1 billion in local clean water projects, many already stalled due to funding shortfalls, could be further delayed or scrapped. A half-billion dollar cut in Clean Water SRF funding means nearly 50,000 fewer jobs created for engineers, contractors, manufactures, skilled laborers and others.

"The Clean Water SRF is among the most successful federal programs. Not only is it responsible for significant water quality improvements nationwide, but the Clean Water SRF also stimulates local economies and creates jobs," the report's authors said.

The report lays out the effect that cuts to the Clean Water SRF will have on every state. In addition to detailing how much federal assistance states stand to lose, the report estimates how many jobs the lost funding could have created, identifies projects that likely will not move forward, and provides the percentage of impaired waters, number of beach closures, and major causes of water pollution in each state.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that approximately 45 percent of assessed waters nationwide do not fully meet water quality standards. This means these water bodies do not meet the basic goal of the Clean Water Act – that they be safe for uses like swimming, fishing, or as a drinking water source. EPA projects that $388 billion will be needed from 2000 to 2019 to address the nation's clean water infrastructure problems.

The Congressional Budget Office has similarly estimated that $17 billion is required in each of the next 20 years for investment in clean water infrastructure, as noted by a bi-partisan letter from governors to Congress

Congress adjourned in October, but is expected to return in mid-November to consider a long list of funding measures. If you are interested in promoting the Clean Water SRF program, it would be worth your time to give your local Congressional representatives a call.

A copy of the report may be downloaded in PDF format at www.amsa-cleanwater.org/pubs/2004-09-15ADU.pdf.

James Laughlin, Editor

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