Clean Water Financing Gets a Boost on the Hill


Columbia River Gorge, OR

Columbia River Gorge, OR | Stacey Detwiler

If you’ve been keeping an eye on the state of funding for water infrastructure over the past few years, you may have noticed a general trend. Like most federal funding these days, programs that provide critical funds for water infrastructure have been steadily cut.

The Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds (SRFs) provide low-interest loans directly to states for water infrastructure projects. These are the projects that keep our drinking water safe and our rivers, lakes, and beaches clean for swimming and boating. For example, in FY10 the Clean Water SRF program was funded at $2.1 billion. Fast forward a few years, and the FY13 President’s budget request would appropriate $1.175 billion for the Clean Water SRF.  That’s a full 44 percent less.

Despite the decreasing funds, the needs for funding water infrastructure are only increasing. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that national wastewater and stormwater management needs are $298.1 billion as of 2008. The SRFs are a critical source of funding, but they will likely never fill the gap between water infrastructure needs and available funding.

On August 1st, Representative Blumenauer (D-OR) introduced the Water Protection and Reinvestment Act of 2012 (H.R. 6249) to address the critical needs in water infrastructure funding. Similar to how the Highway Trust Fund raises money for transportation projects, this bill establishes a trust fund to finance water infrastructure projects.

Representative Blumenauer’s bill supports investments in clean water infrastructure, particularly those that prioritize decentralized and green infrastructure approaches as well as water efficiency and conservation practices. The bill includes grant programs to fund new research on ways to meet 21st century challenges for water management and for a drug take-back program to help keep pharmaceuticals and byproducts out of our rivers and lakes.

This bill is a positive step forward to start closing the gap between the huge needs and scarce dollars to protect our clean water, ensuring that our rivers, lakes, beaches, and streams are clean and safe enough for drinking and recreation.