McManus Helps Launch National Effort on Water Infrastructure
Lynn (MA) Mayor Patrick
J. McManus joined with several House leaders and representatives of the
water industry to call national attention to the need for increased
investment in water and wastewater infrastructure.
Speaking at a press
conference held last month at the U.S. Capitol, McManus said, "There is a
critical need for increased investment in water and wastewater
infrastructure and this need is here now."
The Capitol Hill event
featured the announcement of a newly-created Congressional caucus on water
issues, called the Water Infrastructure Caucus, and the release of a
national report on water infrastructure needs, Clean and Safe Water for the
21st Century, by the Water Infrastructure Network (WIN).
Citing data from the WIN
report, McManus said, "It is estimated that to maintain what we have will
cost $1 trillion, and we now have an annual spending gap of $34 billion for
infrastructure and operations."
Comparing the scale of
this gap to a well-know local program, he said, "Take the Community
Development Block Grant program (CDBG) that works so well. This gap is seven
times the CDBG spending level."
McManus also talked
about affordability, stating that "we have a problem today" in discussing
the increasing percentage of households who are spending more than four
percent of their income on water and wastewater services. He pointed out
that four percent is a threshold level in measuring the affordability of
He expressed his hope
that this public awareness effort would lead to legislation in Congress,
which he called "Water-21" like what has been done for surface
transportation ("TEA-21") and aviation ("AIR-21"). Local officials, he
noted, want this debate "to lead to an effort that won't go backwards, and
threaten the wonderful works of the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean
Water Act, and keep this country moving forward."
McManus spoke at the
event as a representative of the local government community. Within the
Conference of Mayors, McManus is a Conference Trustee and also co-chairs the
Urban Water Council. Among the more than twenty national organizations
sponsoring the WIN report are numerous groups representing local elected and
appointed officials, including the National League of Cities, the American
Public Works Association, the Rebuild America Coalition, the Association of
Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies, the Association of Metropolitan Water
Agencies as well as The U.S. Conference of Mayors.
Water Caucus Leaders
Talk About Congress
To further the debate in
Congress on the increasing investment gap in water infrastructure, several
House Members participated in the event and used the occasion to announce
the creation of a new Congressional caucus on water matters.
Boehlert (NY), one of the founders of the new caucus, talked about the many
water infrastructure challenges, stating, "In response to this situation,
Congressman Borski (PA), Congressman Bilirakis (FL), Congressman Brown (OH)
and myself have formed the bipartisan Water Infrastructure Caucus. The
objective of this Caucus is to educate policymakers in Washington on the
funding crisis facing our nation's 54,000 community drinking water systems
and 16,000 municipal wastewater treatment systems."
Boehlert also added that
"The public health, environmental and economic implications of failing
wastewater and drinking water systems must be understood - and addressed."
Boehlert, who chairs the
House Subcommittee on Water Resources and the Environment, oversees
legislative and oversight activities related to the Clean Water Act, Water
Resources and shares jurisdiction with the House Commerce Committee on
issues pertaining to the Safe Drinking Water Act. As a Subcommittee chair,
he is a senior member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee,
which is led by Representative Bud Shuster (PA), the panel that helped
secure substantial increases for transportation infrastructure through
enactment of the "TEA-21" law in 1998 and "AIR-21" that was signed last
The Ranking Democrat on
the Water Resources Subcommittee, Rep. Robert A. Borski, discussed the many
needs of his City of Philadelphia, pointing out that due to city's
antiquated water infrastructure "it wastes enough water to supply a city."
Borski also praised the
"many great successes with the Clean Water Act" and indicated that as a
member representing Philadelphia, he was pleased to join with the nation's
mayors and the Conference of Mayors in this effort.
Bilirakis (FL), who played a key role in the bipartisan effort to reform the
Safe Drinking Water Act, said, "Congress is often accused of being a
reactive bodyÉToday, however, we are trying to do something different. We
are identifying a very serious challenge to public health that will evolve
over the next two decades. And we are trying to lay the groundwork to do
something about it - before it becomes a crisis - and while we still have
time to constructive, dare I say innovative, response."
Bilirakis, who chairs
the House Commerce Subcommittee on Health and the Environment, also said, "I
do not believe that the solution can, or will be, an unrestricted flow of
new federal money. But I unwilling to stick my head in the sand and deny
that a problem may exist when it is there before us in black and white.
That, I believe, is the import of what we are doing today. And I intend to
work with my colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, to find acceptable
Speaking as one of the
four founding members of the caucus, Rep. Sherrod Brown (OH) discussed the
growing needs in his State of Ohio. "We must invest $5 billion over 20
years in water infrastructure and $7 billion over 20 years in wastewater
infrastructure," he said. Brown, who serves as the Ranking Minority Member
of the Subcommittee on Health and the Environment, also emphasized the need
to focus attention on water conservation.
Also joining the event
to support these efforts were Representatives Peter A. DeFazio (OR) and
James A. Barcia (MI), both members of the House Transportation and
Infrastructure Committee. DeFazio said, "We have mandates in place, yet
there is no money to help communities." He also added that local
governments need "federal assistance to meet federal mandates."
The efforts of the
caucus will be directed initially at increasing Congressional awareness to
the growing water infrastructure needs of the nation, with expectations that
the caucus members will take a lead role in crafting legislative proposals
for action in the 107th Congress, which convenes in January 2001.
In addition to the
Members of Congress and Mayor McManus, Stephen Gorden, the Director of the
Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, and Willie Horton, the Executive
Director of the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District, also spoke at the
New Study Documents
Water Infrastructure Investment Gap
Among the key findings
of the WIN report is documentation of scale of the water infrastructure
investment gap, which is estimated to be $34 billion annually for the period
2000-2019. It shows that average annual local expenditures of $61 billion,
falling short of the $95 billion annually which will be needed to meet both
capital and operating costs for water infrastructure during this period.
The report also finds
that current federal assistance accounts for only ten percent of total
capital outlays for water and wastewater infrastructure and less than five
percent of total water and wastewater outlays. Federal support, the report
shows, has declined by 75 percent in real terms since 1980.
Total expenditures for
building, operating and maintaining drinking water and wastewater facilities
over the next 20 years is projected at nearly $2 trillion, with a spending
gap of $14 billion annually in drinking water and a spending gap of $20
billion annually for wastewater systems.
The report also finds
that an increasing share of the population will be exceeding the four-
percent of household income for water and wastewater services. It is also
estimates that, if all of the spending needs were absorbed through local
utility rates, more than one-third of the nation's households would exceed
this criterion for measuring affordability during the 20-year period. By
2009, at least 22 percent of all households would exceed this threshold, up
from the 1997 level of 18 percent.
A copy of the full
report can be found at www.usmayors.org.