Rebuilding America’s Water Infrastructure: Investing in the Future - View from the Hill
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Rebuilding America’s Water Infrastructure: Investing in the Future

By Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)

Article Date: 01-01-2010
Copyright(C) 2010 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.

A new trust fund is the fair and reliable approach to ensuring the quality of water systems.

One year ago, Washington, D.C., area residents watched in shock as rescue workers airlifted people from vehicles trapped in a massive rush of water caused by a water main rupture on River Road in Maryland. The source of the deluge was a single, corroded pipe that had been improperly installed more than 40 years ago. With 240,000 water main breaks occurring every year, this incident highlighted the serious water infrastructure crisis our nation faces.

The problem plagues both urban and rural areas, and communities large and small. Combined with spills from aging and overburdened sewer systems, these infrastructure challenges threaten to roll back the significant improvements we have seen in water quality since the Clean Water Act was passed 37 years ago. It is no wonder that the American Society of Civil Engineers has given our nation’s water infrastructure a grade of "D-."

Over the next 20 years, we will need more than $500 billion that we simply don’t have to meet vital wastewater and drinking water infrastructure repair needs. In a typical year, communities need an additional $25 billion for water and sewage repairs, yet Congress only provides about $2 billion – and at a time when we are seeing more frequent water main breaks and overflows from sewer systems.

The question is not whether to repair the leaks and close the dangerous funding gap, but how?

After more than a decade serving on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, in 2008, I left to become a member of the Ways and Means Committee. One of the main reasons I left was to address how to finance the rebuilding and renewing of America, which includes repairing and upgrading our water infrastructure.

A federal water trust fund would provide the long-term, sustainable source of revenue we need to ensure economic prosperity and protect the health of people and the environment. It would also create jobs and boost the construction industry. This is why I introduced the "Water Protection and Reinvestment Act (WPRA)," H.R. 3202. This legislation would create a trust fund financed by those who contribute to water quality problems and use water systems.

If we have trust funds for airports and highways, why shouldn’t we create one for the water infrastructure we rely on every day?

To finance the trust fund, WPRA will assess small fees on bottled beverages, products disposed of in wastewater, pharmaceuticals, and corporate profits. Through this new revenue, it will provide a deficit-neutral, consistent and protected source of revenue to help states and localities replace, repair, and rehabilitate critical drinking water and wastewater treatment facilities.

The $10 billion yearly fund, which has broad support from industry, engineers, contractors, environmentalists, and rural community advocates, is estimated to create upwards of 270,000 good jobs every year.

With Washington searching for more ways to create jobs while facing tight budgets, a steady funding source for water infrastructure provides a critical vehicle for jumpstarting our economy and creating the framework for infrastructure investments. I commend AED for its active involvement with water infrastructure issues over the years, and I look forward to continuing to work with the construction equipment industry to find solutions to our nation’s infrastructure needs.

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