Industry groups are offering modest praise for the funds allocated for water infrastructure in the $825-billion economic stimulus package, saying the funding levels are a good start. “It’s a huge increase over what’s been appropriated in the past,” says Karen Lapsovic, director of tax, fiscal affairs and infrastructure finance at the Associated General Contractors. But the same industry groups are quick to point out that much more is needed to even to begin to fix the nation’s ailing water infrastructure.
Using existing formulas, the bill would provide $6 billion for the clean water state revolving fund (SRF) and $2 billion for the drinking water SRF. Half of the funds in the clean water SRF would be provided to the states as loans; the other $3 billion would be disbursed as grants. A total of 20% of the state grants would go for projects to address water-efficiency goals, improve energy efficiency or mitigate stormwater runoff through green infrastructure projects.
The bill also would provide $1.5 billion to support $3.8 billion in grants and loans to help rural communities fund drinking water and wastewater treatment systems, and $500 million for Bureau of Reclamation projects to ensure adequate water supply to western and rural localities impacted by drought. BuRec says it currently has a backlog of approximately $1 billion in rural water projects and water reuse and recyling projects.
Tim Williams, managing director for government affairs at Alexandria, Va.-based Water Environment Federation, a clean-water advocacy group, describes the SRF funding as a good starting point for both drinking water and wastewater projects. In the overall package, “water did pretty well,” he says. For fiscal 2008, Congress appropriated approximately $689 million for the clean water SRF. Additional funding would be “kind of a down payment on what is going to be a much bigger national investment in water infrastructure,” he says. A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency study released in 2002 found a $300-billion to $500-billion funding gap over 20 years between what is needed and how much is being spent.
• Drinking water
• Water efficiency
• Water reuse and recyling
President Barack Obama has said that the primary goal behind the stimulus package is to get as many people back to work as quickly as possible, and groups across various sectors have developed lists of “shovel-ready” projects that could begin within 120 days. The Association of State and Interstate Water Pollution Control Administrators surveyed its members and identified $10 billion in shovel-ready projects in 26 states. The National Association of Clean Water Agencies identified more than $17 billion in projects ready to start in 120 days.
Drinking-water advocates are less enthusiastic about the funding levels for the drinking water fund. “We were kind of disappointed,” says Tommy Holmes, legislative director for the American Water Works Association, Denver. Studies by EPA and the Congressional Budget Office have shown that the infrastructure needs for drinking water and wastewater are roughly equivalent, he says. An AWWA analysis identified $10 billion in drinking-water projects that could start within 120 days. In fiscal 20008, Congress appropriated $842 million for the drinking-water fund.
|PROJECT NAME||STATE||PROJECT TYPE||COST ($ MIL.)|
|Filtration Plant Reconstruction||Ind.||Water treatment plant||60|
|Montebello 2 Finished Water Reservoir||Md.||Water treatment plant||50|
|(OKC) Atoka Piepline Pump Station Rehabilitation||Okla.||Water treatment plant||43|
|Val Vista Water Treatment Plant GAC Implementation||Ariz.||Water treatment plant||33|
|Water System Infrastructure Construction Program||Calif.||Water line||28|
|SOURCE: MCGRAW-HILL CONSTRUCTION DODGE, *PROJECTS CONSIDERED ELIGIBLE FOR STIMULUS FUNDING|
Local sanitation districts are eager to obtain the additional funds. Sharon Green, legislative and regulatory director for the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts, says LACSD has identified about $170 million in projects that could start this year. Still, she says, “There are many additional projects that we’d like to do.” Projects on LACSD’s wish list have been deferred because of a lack of funds, she says.
Some senators have indicated they would like to increase funding levels in the Senate bill, expected to be marked up the week of Jan. 19. But one source says house committee members have told him the numbers in the House bill are likely to remain firm.