Cuts to Clean Water Hurt Jobs


Stormwater in Columbia, MO | Andrew Wamboldt

Stormwater in Columbia, MO | Andrew Wamboldt

A 2008 study [PDF] found that every dollar invested in water and sewer infrastructure increases the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by $6.35 in the long term. The Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis found that for every dollar generated as revenue from the water and sewer industry, an additional $2.62 is generated across all industries.

Clean water supports industry, as demonstrated in the case of New Belgium Brewing Company which relies on clean water to make its product. From the outdoor recreation industry to breweries, investments in clean water support businesses and create opportunities for job growth.

Federal funding, such as the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds (SRFs), is critical to support protection of clean water and increase investment in the infrastructure that keeps our drinking water safe and our rivers, lakes, and streams healthy.

On Friday, federal investments in our nation’s water infrastructure could be significantly cut if sequestration goes into effect. The overall budget for the EPA is expected to be cut [PDF] by $719 million below fiscal year 2012 with an estimated $121 million in cuts to the Clean Water SRF and $75 million to the Drinking Water SRF.

What is Sequestration?

Back in 2011, during a standoff over the debt ceiling, Congress and the Administration agreed to pass the Budget Control Act of 2011 which increased the debt ceiling but required the enactment of a budget deficit reduction bill with at least $1.2 trillion in cuts which would be developed under the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (the “Super Committee”).  Failure to adopt these cuts would trigger sequestration by January 2013, where across-the-board spending cuts would be applied to both mandatory and discretionary spending.

Without an agreement on budget cuts, the deadline for sequestration was delayed until March 1st, this Friday. If sequestration goes into effect, the federal budget would be cut by $1.2 trillion over the next ten years with $85 billion in cuts for this fiscal year. The White House recently released a report identifying the impacts of the sequester for each of the fifty states. Virginia [PDF], my adopted home state, would see $14 million in cuts to primary and secondary school education; more than 2,000 low income students would lose financial aid; and close to $3 million would be lost in funding to protect clean air and clean water and to prevent pollution.

What does this mean for clean water?

Nationally, cuts to EPA’s Clean Water and Drinking Water SRFs will likely mean that fewer water infrastructure projects will be funded. Already, our nation’s water infrastructure suffers from chronic underinvestment. The EPA’s 2008 Clean Watersheds Needs Survey found that the total wastewater and stormwater management needs are $298.1 billion nationwide. Not only will do these cuts threaten the safety of our drinking water and the health of our rivers, lakes, and streams, but they will have an impact on jobs as well.  Adding one job [PDF] in the field of water or sewer infrastructure creates 3.86 related jobs in the national economy.

In our recent report with Green for All, Water Works [PDF], we found that investing $188.4 billion over five years in stormwater management would create an estimated 1.9 million jobs and generate $265.6 billion in economic activity.

Investments in water infrastructure not only protect our clean water, but support job growth in related industries and across the economy.