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Engineering News-Record
Copyright 2002 McGraw-Hill, Inc.

Monday, January 14, 2002

Vol. 248, No. 1


Water Infrastructure Aid Up But Short of Needs, GAO Says
By Tom Ichniowski

As construction groups gird for a new legislative session, some will push for bills to authorize federal funds for water infrastructure. That issue has been a low priority on Capitol Hill, but industry has some new ammunition: a General Accounting Office report that shows a rise in federal aid for wastewater and drinking water facilities over the past decade, but the total falling short of the sums government and industry believes are needed.

In a study dated Nov. 30 but released Jan. 3, GAO says nine federal
agencies, paced by the Environmental Protection Agency, provided $40.6
billion, mainly grants, for water infrastructure between 1991 and 2000. States
contributed an additional $25 billion. But GAO notes that EPA surveys pegged
drinking water systems' needs at $150.9 billion and wastewater infrastructure
needs at $128 billion, over 20 years. The Water Infrastructure Network says
the tab for both categories could reach $1 trillion.

GAO's report shows that EPA is by far the largest source of federal aid,
providing $22.9 billion, or 56% of the federal total. EPA assistance for Clean
Water State Revolving Funds (SRFs) are the largest type of all federal water
financing, at $15 billion. States put up $10.1 billion of their money for SRF
matching requirements.

The second-largest contributor was the Agriculture Dept. Rural Utilities
Service, with $11.5 billion in loans, loan guarantees and grants. Ranking a
surprising third is the Housing and Urban Development Dept., with $4.1 billion
in grants.

Eben Wyman, National Utility Contractors Association vice president for
government relations, says his group backs a House bill introduced early last
year to authorize $3 billion a year for Clean Water SRFs. "We think that
there will be another, broader [water] bill this session," he says. "We do
believe that the SRF should be the foundation of whatever bill comes forward.
We think that the GAO report supports that."

Tim Williams, Water Environment Federation government affairs director, says
sources on the Senate environment committee, two of whose members requested
the GAO study, indicated to his group that it "may introduce a bill as early
as February." But he adds, "It'll be a challenge for [lawmakers], with the
change in the budget surplus picture since this time last year, to find some
real money to help with this huge need that we've documented."

($ IN MIL.)
1991 2000 TOTAL
Environmental Protection Agency 2,063.5 2,581.7 22,913.5
Agriculture Dept.-Rural Utilities Service 835.0 1,232.9 11,632.5
Dept. of Housing and Urban Development 380.8 425.2 4,081.7
Commerce Dept.-Economic Development Admin. 72.5 106.5 985.0
Interior Dept.-Bureau of Reclamation 0 109.2 701.1
Appalachian Regional Commission 17.2 22.8 260.6
Federal Emergency Management Agency 0 3.1 43.6
Small Business Administration 2.1 2.5 25.6
Corps of Engineers 0 13.8 23.5
Total federal assistance: 3,371.1 4,497.6 40,557.2
Source: U.S. General Accounting Office, from agency reports



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