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Environment News Service
(c) 2002 Environment News Service(ENS). All rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 2, 2002

Environment News Service - Water Infrastructure Facing Funding Deficit.

WASHINGTON, DC, October 2, 2002 (ENS) - Funding for water and wastewater
infrastructure faces a $534 billion shortfall over the next two decades,
charges a new report from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The "Clean Water and Drinking Water Infrastructure Gap Analysis" estimates the
current and future funding needs of the nation's water pipes and plants. "With
the aging of the nation's infrastructure, the clean water and drinking water
industries face a significant challenge to sustain and advance their
achievements in protecting public health and the environment," the report
states.

The EPA found that the nation's unmet needs for clean water - in funding,
operations and maintenance - will reach $270 billion over the next 20 years.
For drinking water, the gap approaches $265 billion for the same period.

"This report looks at infrastructure in the broad sense - everything it takes
to deliver clean, safe water to America's homes and businesses and then remove
and treat the waste water that results," said EPA Administrator Christie
Whitman. "From the simplest pipe to the most complex treatment system, we
looked at the entire picture."

The size of the gap can be reduced if revenues at water utilities grow.
Assuming a three percent annual real growth in revenues, for example, the gap
shrinks by almost 90 percent on the clean water side and by about 80 percent
on the drinking water side.

"The actual gap may end up somewhere in between these numbers - and there are
an enormous number of considerations that will go into determining where the
gap ends up," Whitman noted. "The important thing about this report is that it
enables us to engage the discussion with a better understanding of what the
dimensions of the challenge really are."

For fiscal year 2003, the Administration has already proposed the largest
combined request for the state drinking water and clean water revolving loan
funds in history: $2.1 billion. Whitman said that meeting the challenge will
financing from both the public and private sectors, and the development of new
technologies and innovations.

The Water Infrastructure Network (WIN), an industry coalition, says the EPA
report supports in long held belief that the federal government must be a
central component of a long term sustainable solution to the nation's water
and wastewater infrastructure funding needs.

"Simply put, we face a looming crisis as pipes and systems age and remain in
desperate need of upgrade and repair," said Ken Kirk, chair of WIN and
executive director of the Association of Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies.
"Municipalities now shoulder 90 percent of these infrastructure costs, but, as
EPA's Gap Analysis demonstrates, they cannot continue to foot this massive
infrastructure bill alone. Without a serious, long term commitment from the
federal government, the massive need over the next 20 years will only become
greater and the nation will have passed over the opportunity to stem a looming
environmental and public health crisis."

During the Water Environment Federation's 75th Annual Conference in Chicago on
Monday, Whitman called for a national forum next year that will bring together
experts and stakeholders to discuss innovative approaches on how to best meet
water infrastructure challenges.

10/1/02 Concrete Prod. 12
2002 WL 9533182
 

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