Water Week a prime opportunity to emphasize critical water needs

Water Week a prime opportunity to emphasize critical water needs
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As the deadline for filing federal income taxes draws near, many question the value taxpayers receive in exchange for their contributions to the U.S. Treasury. This year, coinciding with the traditional April 15 Tax Day, is the kick-off of the combined water sector’s annual “Water Week,” where lawmakers and the public at large are made aware of crucial water supply and water quality issues facing the nation.

Water is essential to sustain life, and yet it is often undervalued, even ignored, until there is a problem or crisis such as a water main break, contamination, or other safety threat. Not only is reliably clean and safe water imperative in protecting public/human health, it is one of the major drivers of our economy and ensures that our local communities grow and thrive. All one needs to do is look around their community at the homes, schools, hospitals, government buildings, businesses, and recreation centers that rely on water delivery to understand.

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Consider that every $1 invested in water and wastewater infrastructure increases long-term GDP by $6.35, and a one-day disruption in national water services would result in a $43.5 billion daily sales loss to businesses. And, each job created in water and wastewater leads to 3.68 jobs in the national economy, as water contributes tens of billions of dollars to economic growth through tourism, fishing and water related sports.

 

When funding priorities for infrastructure are discussed however, it is usually “roads and bridges” that are addressed before anyone even considers water. In turn, federal investment in water and wastewater has been declining for decades and has failed to keep pace with the challenges and demands that communities across the country are facing. States, local communities, and their ratepayers are the ones who have continuously shouldered the overwhelmingly large portion of the costs, and have stepped up to provide the needed investments for these essential water services.

This lack of federal investment will continue to contribute to breakdowns in water supply, treatment and wastewater capacity that are projected to cost manufacturers and other businesses over $7.5 trillion in lost sales and $41 trillion in loss GDP by 2040. Clean water is an essential part of every local economy, but utility leaders and local governments can no longer afford to do it alone 

After several decades of neglect, Congress recently passed a bipartisan spending bill that provided for some increased federal investments in water infrastructure. While the needed investment is still far off the mark of the more than $1 trillion needed just to maintain current levels of service for wastewater and drinking water over the next twenty years, it provided a starting point for further increases in investment. There is a great deal more work to do! 

Communities and cities cannot attract and keep business, industry or even population without adequate water resources and the technical, managerial and financial resources to manage water. During Water Week and beyond, utility leaders across America will be advocating for greater federal funding so communities have the financial support they need to provide clean water to all. Now is the time for Congress to help the communities they represent with some of their biggest needs and devote the necessary increased resources to build and maintain the critical infrastructure required to continue the delivery and treatment of clean, safe water.

So, as we ponder, and sometimes complain, about the use of government funds while filing federal taxes this year, water stakeholders hope every American comes to appreciate, and even voice their support, for water investments. What investment could be more worthy?

If political leaders on Capitol Hill understand what every citizen instinctively knows to be true, then they too can be heroes in the combined effort to keep clean and safe water flowing to every community.

A fiscally balanced infrastructure plan must prioritize this country’s critical water needs.

David St. Pierre is president of the National Association of Clean Water Agencies and executive director of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago.