Clean Water Infrastructure Funding Cut Again

Last Saturday about 100 people gathered at the North Carolina Botanical Garden to learn what we need to do to protect Bolin Creek. Sponsored by Friends of Bolin Creek, our local creek flows down to Jordan Lake, which is the drinking a water supply for several thriving communities in the area, and a place where over a million visitors go each year to swim, fish and play.

But, did you get that – roughly 100 people, for four hours, on a Saturday morning…people really care about clean water. This is just one example and it’s borne out across the country and by polls that show that clean drinking water is American’s top environmental concern.

Disappointing then that President Obama’s proposed federal budget cuts funding for clean water and drinking water infrastructure [PDF] by about $350 million from what we ended up with last fiscal year. This infrastructure funding is critical to protect public health, and part of the overall budget for the Environmental Protection Agency, which was cut by $105 million. Programs that received boosts include funding for the Chesapeake Bay and assistance to states to implement environmental programs.

The bright spot on infrastructure funding is that the President recognized the value of investing wisely and recommended continuing designated funding for green infrastructure and water and energy efficiency. This funding has been in high demand and allows communities to spend on smart and cost-effective approaches like green streets and rain gardens that cost effectively reduce flooding and sewer overflows, and on water efficiency that saves communities money and can prevent sinking scarce resources into expensive and risky reservoirs.

Here are some examples of how communities are using these designated funds for clean and reliable water:

  • North Carolina is saving 100,000 gallons of water by using cisterns and rain gardens at fire stations in Raleigh.
  • Maryland used funding to reduce pollution, flooding and restore part of downtown Edmonston by creating a “green street.”
  • In Georgia, Douglas County is saving water, energy and money by investing in water efficiency by paying to update old and water-wasting appliances.

Increased investment in water infrastructure is much-needed – but by also focusing on some of these innovative investments, as well as sustainable financing strategies, communities and rivers can benefit. Congress should be urged to continue this valuable funding.