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Clean Water, Drinking Water, & Wastewater Issues

ASCE strongly supports legislation to reauthorize funding for the Clean Water Act State Revolving Loan Fund (SRF). ASCE is working for the enactment of House and Senate bills to provide new funding assistance for publicly owned treatment works.

  • The Water Quality Financing Act (H.R. 720), introduced in the 110th Congress, would authorize the appropriation of $14 billion over four years for the construction and repair of America's aging wastewater treatment plants. It passed the House in March 2007, but did not receive consideration by the full Senate.
  • S. 3500, the Water Infrastructure Financing Act (S. 3500), introduced in the 110th Congress, would authorize $20 billion for the SRF over five years.
  • The EPA estimates that the nation must invest $390 billion over the next 20 years to replace existing systems and build new ones to meet increasing demands.
  • 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.
  • Aging wastewater management systems discharge billions of gallons of untreated sewage into U.S. surface waters each year.
  • Federal assistance has not kept pace with the needs, yet virtually every authority agrees that funding needs remain very high: the United States must invest an additional $202.5 billion for all types of sewage treatment projects eligible for funding under the Act, according to the most recent needs survey estimate by the EPA and the states, completed in 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.
  • The federal government has directly invested more than $80 billion in the construction of publicly owned sewage treatment works (POTWs) and their related facilities since passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972.
  • In 2002, the 2002 EPA Gap Analysis estimated that the United States must spend between $331 billion and $450 billion by 2019 to upgrade and maintain the nation's existing wastewater infrastructure systems and to build new ones (the total includes money for some projects not currently eligible for federal funds, such as system replacement, which are not reflected in the EPA Clean Watersheds Needs Survey).
  • In January 2008, EPA estimated in the 2004 Clean Watersheds Needs Survey that the documented need for new Clean Water Act infrastructure is $202.5 billion nationwide in capital investments over the next 20 years to bring existing systems into compliance with federal clean water regulations.
  • According to the Gap Analysis, if there is no increase in investment, there will be a roughly $6 billion gap between current annual capital expenditures for wastewater treatment ($13 billion annually) and projected spending needs. The study also estimated that, if wastewater spending increases by only 3 percent per year, the gap would shrink by nearly 90 percent (to about $1 billion annually).
  • If the nation fails to meet the investment needs of the next 20 years, it risks reversing the public health, environmental, and economic gains of the past three decades.
  • The case for increased federal investment is compelling. Needs are large and unprecedented; in many locations, local sources cannot be expected to meet this challenge alone and, because waters are shared across local and state boundaries, the benefits of federal help will accrue to the entire nation.
  • Clean and safe water is no less a national priority than are national defense, an adequate system of interstate highways, and a safe and efficient aviation system. Many other highly important infrastructure programs enjoy sustainable, long-term sources of federal backing, often through the use of dedicated trust funds; under current policy, water and wastewater infrastructure do not.
  • As a long-term solution, ASCE supports the creation of a federal clean water infrastructure trust fund to provide a stable, dedicated source of revenue to the states and municipalities to assist in the repair and improvement of America's sewage treatment systems.

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