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March 25, 2010 - ASCE Testimony - FY 2011 Appropriations for EPA and USGS

Testimony of
The American Society of Civil Engineers∗
Before the Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies
on the Budgets for
The Environmental Protection Agency
and the
United States Geological Survey
For Fiscal Year 2011

March 25, 2010

Mr. Chairman, Mr. Simpson, and Members of the Subcommittee:

Good morning. I am Patrick J. Natale, P.E., Executive Director of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). I am a licensed Professional Engineer in the state of New Jersey. I am pleased to appear before the Subcommittee today to testify on behalf of ASCE to discuss the proposed budgets for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) for Fiscal Year 2011.

A. ASCE Recommends an Appropriation of $3 billion for the Clean Water Act State Revolving Loan Fund (SRF) in Fiscal 2011.

The administration’s FY 2011 budget request for the EPA totals $10 billion. This is slightly less than the agency’s FY 2010 enacted budget of $10.3 billion.

The president has requested $2 billion for the Clean Water SRF. Although this request reflects the president’s desire to deal forcefully with the funding needs of the nation’s aging wastewater infrastructure, ASCE believes that the wastewater investment “gap” of approximately $400 billion requires an even greater annual commitment.

Aging wastewater treatment systems discharge billions of gallons of untreated wastewater into U.S. surface waters each year. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the nation must invest $390 billion over the next 20 years to update or replace existing systems and build new ones to meet increasing demand.

Since 1972, Congress has directly invested more than $80 billion in the construction of publicly owned sewage treatment works (POTWs) and their related facilities. State and local governments have spent billions more over the years. Total non-federal spending on sewer and water has been billions more. Nevertheless, the physical condition of many of the nation's 16,000 wastewater treatment systems is poor, due to a lack of investment in plant, equipment and other capital improvements over the years.

In 2008, EPA reported that the total investment needs of America's publicly owned treatment works as of January 1, 2004, were $202.5 billion. This reflects an increase of $16.1 billion (8.6 percent) since the previous analysis was published in January 2004.

Many systems have reached the end of their useful design lives. Older systems are plagued by chronic overflows during major rain storms and heavy snowmelt and, intentionally or not, are bringing about the discharge of raw sewage into U.S. surface waters.

EPA estimated in August 2004 that the volume of combined sewer overflows (CSOs) discharged nationwide is 850 billion gallons per year. Sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs), caused by blocked or broken pipes, result in the release of as much as 10 billion gallons of raw sewage yearly, according to the EPA.

Wastewater infrastructure is expensive as are the monetary and social costs incurred when infrastructure fails. The nation’s wastewater systems are not resilient in terms of current ability to properly fund and maintain, prevent failure, or reconstitute services.

Additionally, the interdependence on the energy sector contributes to the lack of system resilience that is increasingly being addressed through the construction of dedicated emergency power generation at key wastewater utility facilities. Aging, under-designed, or inadequately maintained systems discharge billions of gallons of untreated wastewater into U.S. surface waters each year.

Future investments must focus on updating or replacing existing systems as well as building new ones to meet increasing demand; improved operations processes including ongoing oversight, evaluation, and asset management on a systemwide basis; and watershed approaches to look more broadly at water resources in a coordinated systematic way.

B. ASCE Recommends an Appropriation of $2 Billion for the Safe Drinking Water Act SRF in FY 2011.

America's drinking water systems face an annual shortfall of at least $11 billion to replace aging facilities that are near the end of their useful life and to comply with existing and future federal water regulations. This does not account for growth in the demand for drinking water over the next 20 years. Leaking pipes lose an estimated seven billion gallons of clean drinking water a day.

Of the nearly 53,000 community water systems, approximately 83 percent serve 3,300 or fewer people. These systems provide water to just nine percent of the total U.S. population served by all community systems. In contrast, eight percent of community water systems serve more than 10,000 people, and they provide water to 81 percent of the population served.

Eighty-five percent (16,348) of non-transient, non-community water systems and 97 percent (83,351) of transient noncommunity water systems serve 500 or fewer people. These smaller systems face huge financial, technological, and managerial challenges in meeting a growing number of federal drinking-water regulations.

Federal assistance has not kept pace with demand, however. Between FY 1997 and FY 2010, Congress provided more than $11 billion for the DWSRF through annual appropriations. This total is approximately equal to the annual capital investment gap for each of those years as calculated by EPA in 2002.

Although drinking-water treatment plant operators are often able to provide workarounds during system disruptions, the nation’s drinking-water systems are not highly resilient based on present capabilities to prevent failure and properly maintain or reconstitute services.

Additionally, the lack of investment and the interdependence on the energy sector contribute to the lack of overall system resilience. These shortcomings are currently being addressed through the construction of dedicated emergency power generation at key drinking water utility facilities, increased connections with adjacent utilities for emergency supply, and the development of security and criticality criteria within the sector. Investment must be prioritized to take into consideration system vulnerabilities, interdependencies, improved efficiencies in water usage via market incentives, system robustness, redundancy, failure consequences, and ease and cost of recovery.

C. ASCE Recommends an Appropriation of $1.3 Billion for the USGS in FY 2011

In a time of fiscal restraint, the USGS budget proposal for FY 2011 is up nearly four percent over the current fiscal year appropriation, but we believe the request falls short of the amount needed to support the science needs of the nation.

The FY 2011 budget request for USGS totals $1.1 billion, $21.6 million above the FY 2010 enacted level. The president is asking for increases in programs for renewable energy, climate change, water availability and use, natural hazards, and Landsat.

The Water Resources Investigations activity is funded at $228.8 million in the 2011 budget, which is $3.5 million below the 2010 enacted level. The budget proposes $158.7 million for Hydrologic Monitoring, Assessments, and Research for collection, management, and dissemination of hydrologic data, analysis of hydrologic systems through modeling or statistical methods, and research and development leading to new methods and new understanding, with a focus on water conservation. The tight budget lead the Department to request budget reductions for the Cooperative Water Program ($63.6 million, which is $1.9 less than the FY 2010 enacted level) and for the National Streamflow information Program ($27.1 million, a reduction of $563,000).

Program increases were requested for the National Water Availability and Use Assessment, including $1.1 million for the Groundwater Resources program and $6.4 million for Hydrologic Networks and Analysis.

The WaterSMART Quality Assessment program describes status and trends in water quality, provides an improved understanding of the natural factors and human activity affecting these conditions, and provides information to Federal, State, and local regulatory and policy decisionmakers. A net reduction of $1.5 million is proposed in Hydrologic Monitoring, Assessments, and Research to focus on the WaterSMART program.

The Cooperative Water program is funded at $63.6 million, $2 million below the 2010 level. The program builds on efforts to leverage state, local, and tribal funds to support the majority of the national hydrologic data network of streamgages, wells, and monitoring sites. The Water Resources Research Act program is funded at $6.5 million to promote state, regional, and national coordination of water resources research and training and a network of Water Resources Research Institutes to facilitate research coordination and information and technology transfer.

Mr. Chairman, that concludes my statement. I would be pleased to answer any questions.