While Barack Obama sells his Republican health care “reform,” there seems to be some other important work being forgotten.
As economic hard times continue, many towns and cities are losing tax ratables as businesses shut down and an increasing burden is being placed on residents as aging water treatment and sewer construction funds dry up. Projects are folding and bills are skyrocketing as detailed in the story below:
Federal assistance declines
As for capital expenditures, Hornback said that almost all of the burden now falls on the local water agency.
During the 1970s and into the 1980s, the federal government provided construction grants to upgrade public drinking water and wastewater systems to meet stricter regulatory standards imposed by Congress. Since then, Congress has put about $2 billion into a revolving fund for loans that Hornback said is not sufficient to meet today’s needs.
There are 16,000 publicly owned wastewater treatment plants in the United States that operate 100,000 major pumping stations, 600,000 miles of sanitary sewers and 200,000 miles of storm sewers, according to U.S. EPA. That system received a grade of D- from the American Society of Civil Engineers in its latest “Report Card for America’s Infrastructure.” The society noted that billions of gallons of untreated wastewater is discharged each year because of lagging investments.
Hornback said many communities would be facing a difficult challenge even if the economy were more robust. Communities historically “undervalue” their water and sewer services, charging users less than is needed to keep the systems operating to modern standards.
“The pipes in the ground are in some cases over 100 years old,” he said.
Water has to receive the same priorty as transportation, according to several parties:
NACWA has asked Congress to establish a trust fund — similar to the one used for transportation projects — to help cities and towns upgrade their water and sewer infrastructure.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors Water Council is also calling on Congress to boost federal investment in wastewater treatment plants. A March report from the council blasted Congress for authorizing a “costly and increasing wave of mandates” while essentially abandoning any effort to provide “meaningful financial assistance” to local governments.
What will it cost to repair our critical water and sewer infrastructure?
The conference report, written by senior adviser Richard Anderson, estimates that local governments will have to spend between $2.5 trillion and $4.8 trillion over the next 20 years to fulfill those demands for improved water and sewer systems.
That’s right…$2.5-$4.8 TRILLION added to our burgeoning budget (or non-budget, to be snarky about it.)
Congress seems to think they’ve done all that’s needed:
There is a “vague and false confidence among Congress that they have already addressed the issue by granting $60 billion to cities over two decades ago to build water infrastructure when the cost in a single year (2008) is over $40 billion in capital investments and another $50 billion for operations and maintenance,” Anderson wrote. “A more thorough understanding of how much is spent on public water and wastewater is a necessary first step in establishing a framework for a National Strategy.”
The report advocates adoption of a national strategy that would prioritize the mandates based on comparative risk and direct federal resources where they would have the greatest public impact.
Meanwhile, in Davenport, California, residents are “bracing” at the likelihood of a 74% increase in their sewer bill as one of their big employers has closed and someone has to make up the difference:
Household rates will likely reach $4,000 a year — $2,500 for sewer and $1,500 for water.
Who can afford THAT???
What interests me is how this fits into some of the ideas in Chris Martenson‘s Crash Course, namely, as we go through a massive economic shift, what do we have to prepare for? Tops on the list is a viable water supply…how many of us living without wells are prepared for water problems?
When I bought my solar oven, not only did I buy it to cook food…it also boils and pasteurizes water in a pinch on a sunny day (and it does more good things, too!).
Let’s hope the Southwest keeps having sunny days…until we have energy problems and we all roast for lack of electricity to run air conditioning!
Filed under: Current Politics | Tagged: "Report Card for America's Infrastructure", American Society of Civil Engineers, Barack Obama, Chris Martenson Crash Course, ChrisMartenson.com, Congress, local water agencies, National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA), public drinking water systems, public wastewater systems, sewer construction, solar oven and water sterilizait, solar sun oven to boil and pastuerize water, SunOven.com, U.S. Conference of Mayors Water Council, U.S. EPA, untreated wastewater, water pollution, water treatment | 3 Comments »