U.S. Must Add To Funding Of Nation's Water Systems
Most Americans consider one of their inalienable rights to be access to
clean and safe water. Americans also assume their government virtually
guarantees that right.
Anyone who believes that is wrong.
The federal government has dramatically slashed its funding of the costs
to maintain a clean and safe water infrastructure. Thirty years ago, the
U.S. government funded 75% of these costs -- today, it funds just 5%,
leaving the remainder to cash-strapped local communities.
Pollster Frank Luntz has conducted a national survey to evaluate
Americans' support of federal funding for clean and safe water
infrastructure. The results are clear: America needs clean and safe
water, and Americans expect the federal government to help provide it.
Yet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says if the current funding
gap is not addressed and overcome, the country risks losing 30 years of
progress -- progress that has come in the form of public health,
environmental improvements and economic gains resulting from the Clean
Water and Safe Drinking Water Acts.
The Luntz Research Cos. survey clearly shows Americans believe clean and
safe water is a right and a legislative must. Perhaps not too
surprising, but what is remarkable is the depth of feeling that
respondents demonstrated on this issue.
Despite the expanding federal deficit, 84% of respondents say they would
support legislation in the U.S. Congress that would create a long-term,
sustainable and reliable source of national funding for clean and safe
In fact, 61% said they believe that safe and clean water is a right, not
a privilege. Combine this with the fact that 72% of respondents are
either extremely or very concerned about clean air and clean water and
you will understand both the intensity of feeling and the desire for
Carolinas AGC and its national parent organization, Associated General
Contractors of America, are working with key members of Congress to
encourage passage of water and wastewater funding legislation.
The funding will go to improving outdated water/wastewater
infrastructure around the country. Charlotte and most of the Carolinas
are in need of the funding to update our infrastructure. The Luntz
survey asked Americans what was more important to them: How their U.S.
Representative votes on issues affecting clean and safe water, or how he
votes on issues such as aid to foreign countries.
Despite the attention foreign aid has received during the last year, a
remarkable 77% said clean and safe water was more important.
This is evidence that the safety of water has real legs and will not
disappear until it is solved.
Americans also say they are willing to pay additional tax dollars for
Fully 70% of those surveyed said they would support a 1% tax increase if
they knew that all the receipts would be dedicated to establishing and
preserving a safe and clean water infrastructure in their area.
Luntz says the reason "a clean and safe water trust fund has such
universal support is because it combines the key issue of health and the
key attribute of 'the future.' Put another way, clean water is a health
issue, not an environmental concern. And it is as much about tomorrow as
it is today."
Clean and safe water is something we can all agree on. Providing the
funding to maintain and update the nation's water/wastewater
infrastructure is something the federal government should do for the
benefit of all Americans.
Mike Murphy is president of Turner Murphy Co. in Rock Hill. He's the
2003 chairman of the Carolinas AGC utility division.
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