Aging water infrastructure in need of smarter solutions

Given the recent government shutdown, bipartisan support in the House for the Water Resources Reform and Development Act is encouraging (“We must improve ports, waterways and water infrastructure,” by Reps. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) and Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), Oct. 22). On a topic as vitally important to our nation’s security as water, however, the bill falls short. Further, it contains troubling provisions and misses crucial opportunities.

Our aging water infrastructure and its leaks costs us $2.6 billion annually. While the proposed bill promises to address these problems, we must examine how and what type of projects it will fund. A major concern of the bill is its “streamlining” approach to large-scale projects. It seeks to reduce project review processes by instituting a three-year time limit.

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Limiting the review process, however, offers little room for public response, and pushing projects through review without concern for environmental and social impacts is not the answer. Research and review not only ensure environmental integrity, but allow us to avoid previous mistakes and additional expenditures.

Reps. Shuster and Rahall forget that many of our current water problems are a direct consequence of policies that failed to account for the long-term negative environmental and social effects of large-scale projects. Assessment of land-use practices and interactions with water systems, by contrast, has saved us from costly dredging remediation due to erosion.

Sole reliance on major infrastructure projects is not the answer to current-day water problems. The co-sponsors’ exclusion of financial support to the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Authority (WIFIA) is therefore puzzling. WIFIA provides funding for sub-national projects that invest in distribution network renewal, water reclamation/reuse and water supply facilities. Funding WIFIA commits us to a diversified and innovative approach, critical to answering complex, heterogeneous water problems throughout the U.S.

Schuster and Rahall lament America’s failure to keep pace with the burgeoning economies of the world. Investment in the business-as-usual model, however, will not make us more competitive in the global market. The countries to which the congressmen refer have invested in new and sustainable water technologies in response to current threats to water resources, including climate change. They have surpassed us in part due to their commitment to innovation. Singapore, the second most competitive world economy, is known for its lack of water. Reliance on water imports from Malaysia spurred Singapore’s government to invest in human capital through education and fund innovative water supply and demand solutions. In its current position as one of the world’s leading experts in reclaimed water, Singapore has been able to expand its economy into new global markets.

This is what we must do in the U.S. Currently, we boast the most educated youth population in our history, yet this generation has been sidelined by high unemployment. WIFIA and similar programs can put this generation back to work through smart investment in green infrastructure, water and climate adaptation. The same generation can rehabilitate our crippled manufacturing by refurbishing plants to develop and produce the equipment necessary to rebuild our infrastructure, but first we need to prioritize innovative funding mechanisms for our most vital resource: water.

From Kate Edelen, Herbert Scoville Jr. Peace Fellow, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Washington, D.C. 


Middle class can’t afford more money printing

Credible reports indicate that President Obama is planning to use the Federal Reserve to print up even more unearned funny money, thus causing more inflation and intentionally devaluing the U.S. dollar. More inflation will rob the savings accounts of the middle class, devalue Social Security benefits and crush the poor. Inflation hurts 99 percent of the population and all authentically productive businesses.

If you are a Wall Street speculator and you buy oil, gold and food commodity futures, then inflation can make you rich. If you are an average citizen just trying to raise a family, then inflation is your enemy. Obama’s myopic Midwest-politics-driven biofuel mandates have already made food so expensive that half of America now needs food stamps just to survive. Using even more inflation as a dishonest tactic to reduce the national debt is a major crime, not a solution.

America needs economic growth, not more scams and gimmicks. If Obama really wanted to help, he would immediately abolish all energy mandates and subsidies across the board, and open up all of Alaska to oil exploration. That plan would end the destructive hoaxes of biofuel, wind power and solar projects, and give Americans real money that we actually earned, not more funny money that we just print up. We need lower food and energy prices, which will give all Americans an instantly higher standard of living and create more jobs and honest tax revenue.

If our politicians want to help find an authentic alternative to fossil fuels, they only need tell the U.S. Patent Office to stop blacklisting patent applications for low-energy nuclear reactors. Several dozen companies around the world have applied for LENR patents, including STMicroelectronics S.R.L. of Switzerland, one of the world’s largest semiconductor companies. LENR reactors are carbon-free, nontoxic, nonradioactive and low in cost, and will someday power all our cars, trucks, ships and aircraft.

We need better technology and honest government, not more inflation and dirty political schemes.

From Christopher Calder, Eugene, Ore.