We’ve talked a lot about the distance between our water infrastructure needs and the funding available to rehabilitate, repair, and replace our conveyance systems. It’s estimated that our water infrastructure needs top out at over $9 billion per year, while federal funding for that infrastructure is tapped out at a little over $1 billion. Local and state governments and communities large and small all have shouldered this $8-billion-dollar discrepancy—but how much longer can these water purveyors carry this burden?
Last week, Congressman Earl Blumenauer (OR3) introduced the Water Protection and Investment Act of 2012 (HR 6249). The purpose of the act is to provide “ a deficit neutral, consistent, and protected source or revenue to help states replace, repair, and rehabilitate critical wastewater treatment facilities.”
Blumenauer proposes raising revenue through small fees targeting a “broad base of those who use water and contribute to water pollution.” Pointing to a recent Government Accountability Office report, Blumenauer expects this fee schedule to rise upwards of $6.5 billion per year, which would be funneled to grant and loans programs that already exist as part of the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund. Additional monies would also be allocated to energy and water efficiency programs, sewer overflow control, workforce development, and technology R&D.
As an added benefit, passage of the act could lead to job creation as well. According Blumenauer, the National Association of Contractors “estimates that for every $1 billion invested in water infrastructure, 26,000 jobs are created.” Using those estimates, Blumenauer believes the Water Protection and Reinvestment act could create up to 169,000 jobs in the next decade.
In a statement introducing the act, Blumenauer emphasized that it is time for congress to step in and mend the water infrastructure-funding gap, saying, “We cannot continue to place the burden of protecting public health, restoring the environment, and reducing pollution on communities and individuals who are simply unable to afford it.”
“We have dedicated funding for the nation’s transportation system,” writes Blumenauer, “It is time to establish a similar trust fund to finance clean water infrastructure.”