The health and safety of our nation’s communities depend on the infrastructure that provides clean drinking water and wastewater disposal. Many of these critical facilities, however, are aging and in dire need of replacement or repair. If we are to protect our nation’s public health and environment, we’ll need to ensure that our drinking water and wastewater pipelines and treatment facilities meet the demands of the 21st century.
The Need for Legislation:
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has given our nation’s drinking water and wastewater infrastructure a grade of “D-” in their 2009 report card. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s most recent Clean Water and Drinking Water Infrastructure Gap Analysis estimates a $534 billion gap between current investment and projected needs over the next 20 years. Last year alone, American communities suffered more than 240,000 water main breaks and saw billions of gallons of overflowing combined sewer systems, causing contamination, property damage, disruptions in the water supply, and massive traffic jams. According to ASCE, an average of six billion gallons of potable water is lost per day in the US because of leaky pipes. This is enough to fill nearly 9,091 Olympic-sized swimming pools!
Learn more about this critical issue by watching the trailer for Liquid Assets, a documentary that tells the story of America's aging water infrastructure, go to the Water Environment Federation's Water is Life website, or read the NY Times coverage of this issue, As Sewers Fill, Waste Poisons Waterways.
The Trust Fund:
Our nation’s water infrastructure needs have grown while federal funding for clean water has declined. While the needs are estimated to be over $25 billion a year, appropriations for water infrastructure have averaged just over $2.3 billion a year since 2000. This pushes more and more costs on local governments and ratepayers, whose rates have grown at twice the rate of inflation in recent years. We need new sources of revenue to meet our communities’ water infrastructure and environmental restoration needs. A Water Protection and Reinvestment Trust Fund, funded by polluters and those who use our water systems for product disposal, will provide a deficit-neutral, consistent and protected source of revenue to help states replace, repair, and rehabilitate critical drinking water and wastewater treatment facilities.
How it Would Work:
The Water Protection and Reinvestment Act would assess new taxes, or user fees, on: water-based beverages; items disposed of in wastewater (such as toothpaste and toilet paper); pharmaceuticals; and corporate income. These new revenue sources would raise approximately $10 billion a year. Most of the funding would be distributed as grants and loans through the existing Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Funds, giving states the authority to set project priorities and deliver funds directly to municipalities. The remaining funding would support new programs for research and development, green infrastructure, small water systems, combined sewer overflow reduction, global warming, and other state and local priorities.
The Water Protection and Reinvestment Act Will:
· Protect public health by providing the funding communities need to provide safe drinking water and sewer service.
· Restore the environment by providing incentives for green infrastructure that reduces energy use and withstands the impacts of global warming.
· Create jobs by investing in projects to repair and replace aging systems. A $10 billion investment would create between 200,000 and 267,000 new jobs in engineering, construction and other industries.
· Reduce pollution by decreasing the number and severity of combined sewer overflows, discouraging the over-use of pesticides and fertilizers, and reducing the amount of pharmaceuticals in our water supply.