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America's Drinking-Water and Wastewater Systems--In Need of Funding.

The nation's 54,000 drinking-water systems and 16,000 wastewater systems face staggering infrastructure needs--nearly $1 trillion over the next 20 years--and a shortfall of half a trillion dollars, according to Clean and Safe Water for the 21st Century, a report released in April by the Water Infrastructure Network (WIN). Currently, America's drinking water and wastewater systems spend $23 billion per year on infrastructure. To replace aging facilities and comply with existing and future federal water regulations, however, these systems need funding of an additional $23 billion per year.

WIN is calling on the federal government to make investment in drinking-water and wastewater infrastructure a national priority. Failure to invest in clean and safe water could reverse the public health, economic, and environmental gains of the last three decades, the report notes. "Local governments and rate payers ... fund 90 percent of clean and safe water infrastructure costs while grappling with competing needs to educate children, maintain roads and transportation systems, fight crime, and provide social services," the report says. "The federal government should not make communities choose between providing safe and clean water and funding other necessary community programs. Nor should families be forced to pay unaffordable water rates. Better solutions are needed."

Without a significantly enhanced federal role in drinking-water and wastewater infrastructure, critical investments will not occur, the report notes. According to WIN, there are a number of possible solutions. These include grants, trust funds, loans, and incentives for private investment. "So, the question is not whether the federal government should take more responsibility for drinking-water and wastewater improvements," says the WIN report, "but how."
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Publication:Journal of Environmental Health
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2000
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