U.S. Water Quality, Infrastructure Poor
Tuesday, October 1, 2002
BY JOHN HEILPRIN
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
WASHINGTON -- More than a third of surveyed rivers, and
about half of all lakes and estuaries are too polluted for swimming or
fishing, the Environmental Protection Agency said Monday. It projected a
gap of more than $500 billion in unmet water quality needs over 20 years
unless spending on treatment facilities rises signi- ficantly.
The agency issued two separate reports on water quality that were each
based on 2000 data. In one of the reports, a biennial national water
quality inventory that formerly was issued as a report to Congress, the
agency said runoff from farmland, sewage treatment plants and changes in
the natural flow of streams and rivers is fouling the nation's waters.
From 1998 to 2000, the percentage of polluted streams rose from 35
percent, to 39 percent; the percentage of polluted lakes was unchanged
at 45 percent; and the percentage of polluted estuaries increased from
44 percent, to 51 percent.
The second report, a so-called "gap analysis" of water infrastructure
needs, says that an increase in real spending on the nation's network of
treatment plants by 3 percent above the rate of inflation would be
required for cities and towns to keep up with pressing needs.
By 2019, systems could be short $271 billion for wastewater and $263
billion for drinking water -- money that would be badly needed to
replace aging pipes, maintain existing facilities and build new ones to
meet rising demand, the agency said.
With the 3 percent spending increases, the gaps could be held to $45
billion for drinking water and $31 billion for wastewater, it said.
Environmentalists said the reports paint a darker picture than that.
"We're not making progress in addressing the remaining sources of water
pollution," said Nancy Stoner, director of Natural Resources Defense
Council's clean water project.
Owners of water and waste treatment plants immediately suggested that
the federal government should pick up the added costs rather than cover
them through higher local water and sewer rates.
"It bolsters the need for Congress to act quickly on this," said Adam
Krantz, a spokesman for the Water Infrastructure Network, a trade group
for local elected officials and drinking water and wastewater
administrators. "Without immediate action, we're looking at a massive
environmental and public health problem."
Bush administration officials have said that they opposed a bipartisan
House plan to make billions more available to help states with
wastewater projects, because defense spending must take priority.
-- -- --
On the Net:
EPA gap report:
EPA water inventory: