Civil Engineers Urge Federal Government to Create Water Trust Fund
Fund Would Close $534 Billion Gap in Water Infrastructure Investment
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) urges the Bush administration to enhance its role in providing resources and funds to replace the nations aging water infrastructure systems by creating a water trust fund to finance the growing national shortfall, contradicting one of the chief conclusions in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report released.
According to The Clean Water and Drinking Water Infrastructure Gap Analysis, the estimated funding gap in water infrastructure investment is a staggering $534 billion dollars over the next 20 years. The report concludes that state and local governments can shoulder the responsibility of closing the gap by increasing their capital and operations and maintenance budgets by three percent annually for the next twenty years, with no federal contributions needed. However, the report does not consider the impact of future population growth and new construction on the nations overburdened water infrastructure systems.
"The case for federal investment is compelling when you consider that failing to meet the investment needs for water infrastructure over the next 20 years puts the public health, environmental and economic gains of the last three decades in peril," said H. Gerard Schwartz, Jr., P.E., Ph.D., F.ASCE. "This reports assertion that state and local government can shoulder the burden of offsetting the shortfall in water infrastructure funding is unacceptable."
It is critical that the federal government take a leadership role in solving the problem of our decaying water infrastructure by establishing a flexible federal investment program that includes grants, loans and other forms of assistance coupled with local and state funds. Grants are needed for many communities that simply cannot afford to meet public health, environmental or service-level requirements. Loans and credit enhancements may be sufficient for other types of communities with greater economies of scale, wealthier populations, or fewer assets per capita to replace.
In March 2001, ASCE released the 2001 Report Card for Americas Infrastructure giving 12 infrastructure categories an overall grade of "D+". Both drinking water and waste water systems earned a "D." At the time of the Report Cards release, the nations 54,000 drinking water systems faced an annual shortfall of $11 billion needed to replace pipes and facilities that are nearing the end of their lifespan and must comply with federal regulations. Wastewater systems also face enormous needs. Several of the 16,000 sewer systems are 100 years old. ASCE estimates an annual shortfall of $12 billion in funding for infrastructure needs. However, federal funding has remained flat for a decade.