(Photo by U.S. EPA)

Timothy S. Williams,the Water Environment Federation's director of government affairs, says he is disappointed with the budget request especially "in light of the enormous capital need that has been identified by EPA and the Water Infrastructure Network," an industry lobbying group.

Bush proposed cuts in water programs last year, but congressional appropriators rejected his plan. Williams is optimistic that for 2003, Congress will add funds again, despite looming overall budget deficits. "The need is there," he asserts.

EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman defends the agency's request, noting that the administration is seeking more for water infrastructure than it did in 2002. In its last budget proposal, the White House requested $850 million for the Clean Water SRF and $823 million for the Drinking Water SRF. "Water will be a focus of this administration," Whitman said at a Feb. 4 briefing for reporters.

To support that claim, the budget also includes a proposed new community partnership program designed to improve 20 specific watersheds. EPA is seeking $21 million in new money for that program in 2003. It aims to replicate the approaches that successfully restored the Charles River in Massachusetts and other watersheds.

EPA's $7.7-billion budget request also seeks $200 million for brownfields cleanup, including $120 million for brownfields infrastructure programs. The request is $100 million above the 2002 request.

Since Sept. 11, EPA has taken on a new homeland security role and the budget plan funds two key areas where the agency says more research and technology are needed. The White House is seeking $75 million in new research funding to help develop technologies to clean up buildings attacked by bioterrorists. EPA was responsible for the anthrax cleanup of the House and Senate office buildings. It also has been designated the lead federal agency to supervise other decontamination efforts.

In addition, the budget requests $20 million to continue assessing and addressing the potential vulnerabilities of drinking water systems.

he White House 2003 budget request for the Environmental Protection Agency would reduce funds for water infrastructure, but construction officials hope Congress will reverse that plan. President Bush is seeking $2.3 billion for federal aid to state revolving funds, down from the $2.7 billion Congress authorized for fiscal 2002. The request includes $1.21 billion for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, down $138 million from the $1.35 billion Congress approved for 2002. It also includes $850 million for the Drinking Water SRF, the same as this year's level.