Campaign urges elected officials to make investment in water infrastructure a top priority
The Water Environment Federation (WEF) participated in this week’s U.S. Conference of Mayors Winter Meeting that drew 300 mayors from across the nation to Washington, D.C. WEF Executive Director Jeff Eger briefed the Mayors Water Council on the Water for Jobs: Water Puts America to Work campaign, which makes the business case for water infrastructure investment by emphasizing the irrefutable link between investment and job creation.
Launched in September 2012, the campaign has the support of 17 national partners and 32 WEF member associations representing more than 30,000 U.S. water quality professionals. This partnership is working together to send a unified message to elected officials that investment in water infrastructure is an investment in America’s future and must be a top priority. The campaign partners will be hosting an Infrastructure Summit in April that intends to bring national attention to this critical issue.
“There has never been a more critical time to reinvest in our essential water infrastructure,” said Eger during the briefing. “WEF and our partners are working together to deliver the message that water investment must be a national priority.”
Much of the U.S. water and wastewater infrastructure was built more than a century ago. In recent years, a lack of investment and priority for this largely invisible network of pipes, tunnels and tanks has resulted in an alarming state of disrepair that threatens the foundation of America’s economy and quality of life. With needs far outpacing investment, the U.S. is falling behind many developed nations, potentially impacting our ability to compete in a global market.
In a report released earlier this week by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the group gave the nation’s drinking and wastewater infrastructure a D- grade. In the report, “Failure to Act: The Impact of Current Infrastructure Investment on America’s Economic Future,” ASCE found that “water related infrastructure in the United States is clearly aging, and investment is not able to keep up with the need.” It further contends that if the current trend continues, the U.S. could lose nearly 700,000 jobs by 2020 and if the infrastructure deficit is not addressed by 2040, 1.4 million jobs will be at risk.
WEF and its partners know that failure to make the necessary investments will result in unreliable water delivery and wastewater treatment services and will hinder our economic recovery. WEF also recognizes that vast majority of the financial burden for water investment is being borne local ratepayers and that many cities are facing serious affordability challenges.
Over the last several months, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has engaged in a dialogue with local governments—led by the U.S. Conference of Mayors—to clarify how the financial capability of a community will be considered when developing schedules for municipal projects necessary to meet Clean Water Act obligations.
As a result of this dialogue, EPA Acting Assistant Administrator for Water, Nancy Stoner and EPA Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, Cynthia Giles transmitted a Financial Capability Framework to EPA Regional Offices. This Framework identifies various implementation issues as well as some more robust ways to present community-specific information as part of a financial capability analysis. These issues are a key concern as localities pursue EPA’s integrated planning approach for municipal wastewater and storm water.