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Engineering News-Record
Monday, October 14, 2002

WHITMAN'S REPORT ON FUNDING PROMPTS CALLS FOR SUPPORT
By Sherie Winston and Andrew G.Wright

THE AMOUNT OF MONEY NEEDED TO maintain the nation's wastewater and drinking
water infrastructure continues to be far greater than the amount of available
funds.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christine Todd Whitman used
the opening session of the annual conference of the Water Environment
Federation in Chicago Sept. 30 to unveil the agency's latest "gap analysis."
EPA contends capital costs and operation and maintenance costs for clean water
will exceed $270 billion over the next 20 years, assuming no growth in
revenue. The gap is approximately $265 billion for drinking water for the same
period.

"Unless wesubstantially increase our commitment to repairing and replacing
water infrastructure, we risk reversing the progress we have made in public
health and water quality over the past 30 years," says Jim Clark, a vice
president in Black & Veatch's Los Angeles office who completed his one-year
term as WEF president at the conference.

Whitman says that if a 3% annual growth rate in revenue is assumed by state
and local governments, the gap shrinks by nearly 90% for clean water and by
about 80% for drinking water. "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," she maintains.

"This report's assertion that state and local government can shoulder the
burden of offsetting the shortfall in water infrastructure funding is
unacceptable," says H. Gerald Schwartz, president of the American Society of
Civil Engineers. ASCE says the Bush administration must enhance its role in
providing resources to replace aging water infrastructure systems.

For fiscal 2003 the administration proposed $2.1 billion for state drinking
water and clean water revolving loan funds. The Water Infrastructure Network,
a broad coalition of industry and environmental groups, reports a combined
funding gap for drinking water and wastewater of $460 billion over the same
20-year period.

The Association of Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies argues that the EPA
report's findings "bolster the urgent need for legislation that provides a
long-term sustainable solution" to water infrastructure funding needs. "We
face a looming crisis to the nation's wastewater infrastructure, as pipes and
systems age and are in desperate need of upgrade and repair," says Ken Kirk,
executive director of AMSA. "Without a serious, long-term commitment from the
federal government, the wastewater infrastructure funding need over the next
20 years will only rise dramatically, and we will have missed our opportunity
to stem a looming environmental and public health crisis."

Utilities are strapped financially and there is little room to raise rates,
especially in the current economy, notes an AMSA spokesman. Officials "need
to look at creative and innovative funding methods to create a sustainable
fund," the spokesman adds.

The WEF conference, which drew some 16,000 attendees and 800 exhibitors,
traditionally previews challenges facing the wastewater market. Attendees
focused on items that included speculation on how EPA will administer
stormwater/combined sewer overflow policy and what it will do about endocrine
disruptors in the water supply.

 

 

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