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Earlier today, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed a version of the State Revolving Fund reauthorization bill, also known as the Water Infrastructure Financing Act (S.1005), 17-2. If designed correctly, the reauthorization of State Revolving Fund (SRF) programs can create a mechanism to provide much-needed funding for water efficiency and green infrastructure investments.
Over the years, SRF's have provided $68 billion to over 20,000 different water projects serving nearly 95 million people. The new bill commits $39 billion to updating the country's antiquated water infrastructure system and provides policy makers the opportunity to include forward-thinking investments--such as green infrastructure, water efficiency and new R&D--in state water infrastructure funding. However, unlike the stimulus package, the SRF reauthorization bill has not outlined specific set-asides for these projects, nor does it prioritize fixing our aging infrastructure before building new treatment plants.
Although the current version of the bill represents a great first step, as Nancy Stoner from the NRDC explains:
I salute the bill's authors for the vision and foresight reflected in the bill as a whole.
There is, however, a gaping flaw in the Clean Water State Revolving Fund program that the bill fails to address and which has the potential to swallow up the water resource improvements that this legislation would otherwise be expected to bring. The bill continues to fund new sewage treatment plants and new sewage and stormwater collection systems in greenfields, i.e., currently undeveloped or working landscapes. We know that if you build water infrastructure in such areas, sprawl will come, which means more impervious surfaces and more polluted runoff. These effects are largely irreversible.
It makes no sense to continue to use Clean Water Act funds to create new pollution that the Clean Water Act will then require to be addressed. I urge the Senate to address this issue as the bill moves forward.
For the official press release, read EPW Committe Moves Landmark Water Infrastructure Legislation
Find out how your state is planning to spend their portion of the economic stimulus funds for water infrastructure. Work to improve the green projects and track the investments as the commitments are made. For contact information, more instructions and a survey to keep River Network informed, check out: Greening Our Economic Stimulus Package.
For American Rivers' take on this issue, read Water Infrastructure Financing Act Passes Senate Committee