The SRF was first authorized in 1987 to replace the construction grants program with a mechanism to provide low-interest loans to municipalities to build wastewater treatment plants. Since 1988 when Congress first funded the SRF, the program has paid out more than $47 billion to states and localities to address their clean water needs. Even though the SRF is one of the most successful infrastructure programs in the nation’s history, funding for it has continued to dwindle since fiscal year 2004 when Congress appropriated $1.35 billion. In fiscal year 2007, the Bush administration sought a paltry $688 million for this popular program. This decline comes even though reports from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Government Accountability Office (GAO), and the Water Infrastructure Network (WIN), a coalition of municipal groups of which NACWA is a member, estimate the funding need for the next 20 years at between $300 billion and $500 billion. Furthermore, the Bush administration envisions zeroing out funding for the SRF altogether by 2011, leaving the program to limp along at a level far below the acknowledged needs of local governments.
“Without a federal recommitment to clean water, the costs of maintaining existing and aging infrastructure, further stressed by ever increasing population and industrial demands, as well as new and costly Clean Water Act requirements, the nation risks losing the water quality gains made over the past three decades,” Ken Kirk, NACWA’s executive director, said.
Fortunately, the SRF enjoys enormous bipartisan support, and NACWA is grateful that Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.), the chairman of the committee, and Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), the ranking member, consider the program to be of such great importance, that a hearing on its reauthorization marks the first order of business for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The 35th anniversary of the Clean Water Act offers the perfect opportunity for the 110th Congress to rededicate itself to the promise of fishable, swimmable waterways for all Americans.
NACWA recognizes that reauthorizing the program — its authorization expired in 1995 — is only the first step. Even more important is long-term, sustainable funding to ensure the continued success of the SRF. NACWA believes the reauthorization should include a strong grant component as well as a reliable and sustainable revenue source to overcome the large funding gap. Any legislative proposal must consider potential revenue sources, via a trust fund, such as those that exist already for highways and airways.
NACWA members are proud of their service as environmental stewards, devoting their lives to ensure clean water for all Americans. NACWA looks forward to working with Chairman Oberstar, Ranking Member Mica, and other committee members on developing legislation that guarantees a robust SRF and a reliable source of funding to protect America’s clean water infrastructure and precious water resources for generations to come.
NACWA represents the interests of nearly 300 of the nation’s publicly owned wastewater treatment works, serving the majority of the sewered population in the United States, collectively treating and reclaiming over 18 billion gallons of wastewater every day.