Empowering Communities, Advocating Solutions

Funding Federal Water Protection Programs (Should Be) a No-Brainer

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It’s that time of year again – federal budget talks are in full swing (and fittingly, so is the beach and boating season), and crucial water protection programs are on the chopping block. Despite the fact that healthy water bodies are essential to our economy and quality of life, the necessary programs that restore and protect these waters are in danger of being underfunded or altogether cut. In the President’s 2014 budget proposal, funding for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF), which prevents sewage and stormwater contamination, is cut by nearly 20%, while the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (BEACH) Act, a water quality monitoring program, has been proposed to be completely defunded. These are the programs that prevent people from swimming, boating, and fishing in contaminated water, and they may be slashed or eliminated in 2014.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), through which the CWSRF and BEACH Act are funded, reports that between 1.8 and 3.5 million Americans each year become sick recreating in waters contaminated by sewage overflows. To break it down further, 1 in every 28 swimmers suffer gastrointestinal illness from swimming in raw or partially treated sewage. This problem will only get worse unless a real investment is made into fixing this problem, because our sewage infrastructure is outdated and failing. In New York alone, an estimated $36 billion dollars is needed over the next 20 years to fix sewage infrastructure, and the state cannot afford this on its own. The CWSRF was created to help solve this problem, aiding states in fixing failing sewage systems, preventing stormwater runoff, and protecting estuaries from pollution. Similarly, the BEACH Act was created knowing that sewage contamination and stormwater pollution are, and will continue to remain, public health risks – risks that can be mitigated by funding water quality monitoring at popular beaches.

Maintaining healthy estuaries, lakes, rivers, and oceans makes sense environmentally and economically. In 2014, the investments in water quality programs and sewage infrastructure upgrades will create jobs and foster local and regional tourism economies. Plus, investing in the programs that revitalize waterways and protect public health now will prevent larger, more costly problems down the line. According to the National Utility Contractors Association, SRF programs generate 400,000 jobs annually, and that is not including the hundreds of thousands of jobs that rely on boating, fishing, and tourism. In New York and Connecticut, the Long Island Sound alone supports an $8.5 billion recreation and tourism economy (despite having essential restoration and protection programs defunded last year). Millions of Americans rely on their local beaches and waterways, and cutting the fundamental programs that ensure the beaches stay open and the waterways stay healthy is short-sighted and will have costly, lasting environmental impacts.

CCE will continue fighting to keep federal water protection programs funded and functional. To learn more or find out how you can help, visit our Clean Water Infrastructure page.

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