NACWA: GAO Report Emphasizes Need for Trust Fund

The report, Clean Water Infrastructure: A Variety of Issues Need to be Considered When Designing a Clean Water Trust Fund, released June 29 by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) underscores the message long advanced by the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA): that our nation’s clean water infrastructure is in dire need of repair and will require significant funding to ensure continued strong protections for public health and the environment.

The report states, “Although federal, state, and local governments invest billions of dollars annually in wastewater infrastructure—a total of about $40 billion in 2006—EPA and others have estimated that current spending levels may not be adequate to cover the costs of maintaining and replacing pipes, treatment plants, and other parts of this infrastructure. According to EPA’s estimates, a potential gap of about $150 billion to $400 billion between projected future infrastructure needs and current levels of spending could occur over the next decade.”

Clearly, these figures are consistent with the estimates previously put forward by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (the Water Infrastructure Network and others who have estimated the clean water infrastructure funding gap at $300-$500 billion over 20 years). NACWA has advocated a trust fund for a number of years and has testified before Congress about the funding crisis and the efforts of municipalities to meet their clean water needs.

“The release of the GAO report is an important step in our efforts to establish a long-term, sustainable source of revenue in the form of a trust fund to ensure communities can continue to provide clean water and strong protections for public health and the environment,” said Ken Kirk, NACWA’s executive director. “Communities currently bear 95 percent of the cost of clean water, and ratepayers will continue to see increases unless they see some financial assistance from the federal government to help them fill this gap. A clean water trust fund, financed broadly by fees potentially on such things as bottled beverages, flushable products, pesticides and agricultural chemicals, and pharmaceuticals will help cities cover the staggering cost of meeting their water quality objectives. We have trust funds for airports and highways. Why not for water?”

NACWA appreciates GAO’s hard work in researching this report. NACWA is also grateful to Reps. James Oberstar (D-Minn.), chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee; Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), chair of the T&I Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment; and Earl Blumenauer, member of the House Ways and Means Committee, for requesting the report and holding hearings that raise public awareness about this very critical issue. NACWA looks forward to working with them and other members of Congress to get a trust fund bill introduced and passed.

NACWA represents the interests of more than 300 public agencies and organizations that have made the pursuit of scientifically based, technically sound and cost effective laws and regulations their objective. NACWA members serve the majority of the sewered population in the United States and collectively treat and reclaim more than 18 billion gallons of wastewater daily.

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