Empowering Communities, Advocating Solutions

Dirty Water Woes: Sequestration’s Impact on Clean Water Funding


Clean water is a necessity, not a luxury item.

Unfortunately, that is not the signal we often get from Washington.  The Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds (SRF) provide essential support for critical infrastructure repairs and upgrades.    These programs make up a small fraction of the Federal budget every year, and yet they carry with them tremendous environmental, economic and public health benefits for all 50 states.  The SRF programs serve as the primary mechanism for investing in the infrastructure gives Americans access to clean water for drinking and recreation.

Despite a growing population, clean water funding has been on a downward trend in recent years.  As the federal budget is negotiated, it is important to remember that water infrastructure funding benefits the environment and the economy.  The current proposals would restore SRF funding to pre-sequester levels, however if the overall budget does not meet the limits of the Budget Control Act then everything will once again be subjected to sequester measures. 

So what is it about clean water programs that make this funding so important?  The SRF programs provide low interest loans to states and municipalities that urgently need improvements to critical clean water infrastructure.  SRF dollars have been used to finance sewer separation projects to reduce sewer overflows, improve sewage treatment technology, and manage storm water runoff.  Outdated sewage infrastructure can lead to billions of gallons of raw or partially treated sewage discharges into homes, communities and waterways every year.  According to the EPA, between 1.8 and 3.5 million Americans become ill annually from contact with pathogens and bacteria in sewage contaminated waters.  Contaminants from sewage also contribute to dangerous algal blooms, which have adverse impacts on fish and aquatic plant life.

Not only can modest investments in clean water infrastructure promote healthy aquatic ecosystems and protect human health, but they also create tremendous economic benefits for states and municipalities.  Recently, the U.S. Conference of Mayors stated that every public dollar invested in clean water infrastructure is leveraged by private capital, increasing long-term GDP output by $6.35 and creating more jobs than any other type of infrastructure. 

In the end, supporting clean water funding just makes sense.  SRF programs are a cost effective means of working to ensure that everyone has access to clean water.    These are essential government programs that should be funded at pre-sequestration levels or better, and they should be a top priority for every member in Congress.


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