State Revolving Fund — One Step Forward

The Senate just introduced their version of the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds (SRF) that provides funding for water infrastructure throughout the country. The bill is good in that it provides much needed money for our crumbling water infrastructure, and authorizes EPA’s WaterSense program that promotes water efficient products. Additionally, the bill has some great provisions to increase research on integrated water management, water efficiency and climate adaptation, and establishes a program to replace lead pipes. So overall, this bill is a step forward

But why not a giant step forward you want to know? One of our top priorities is to ensure that federal funding for water infrastructure is directed to the future of water infrastructure – by integrating green infrastructure and water efficiency – not the past. We successfully advocated that 20% of water infrastructure spending in the federal stimulus be directed to these approaches, and a number of states are already using the money for a variety of good projects including reducing stormwater using raingardens and providing water efficiency retrofits. We believe that the SRF – which is the long term funding mechanism – should also include dedicated funding for green infrastructure.  And we’re in good company – in his proposed budget, President Obama is requesting that the 20% set-aside apply to the FY10 budget. The proposed bill does include some good incentive for states and local governments to use these approaches, but dedicated funding remains our goal.

One other missing piece is any meaningful limitation on funding sprawl – or no more sewer lines to nowhere. As my colleague Nancy Stoner writes, this “gaping” flaw has the potential to overtake other clean water gains by increasing sprawl and impervious surfaces. A case in point: a community in Maryland proposed funding a wastewater treatment plant with federal funds that would have more than quadrupled the population. Because of community outcry, the project has been withdrawn, but currently there is no official prohibition on subsidizing sprawl.