July 20, 2016 | By: Brittney Kohler

This Tuesday, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hosted a day-long event in Washington, D.C., for representatives from the public and private sectors to discuss emerging finance methods for addressing deficient community water infrastructure.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy opened the day stressing the need to “start thinking about these [water resources projects] as investments, not expenses.” She went on the recognize the success of the EPA’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund, which has provided over $111 billion to communities since 1987 for water resources projects.

Tuesday’s event included a mixture of expert panel presentations and follow-up discussions designed to address water infrastructure financing issues from a variety of federal, state, and local perspectives. The first panel of the day included municipal leaders from Jackson, Mississippi, and Atlanta, Georgia. The panelists emphasized the importance of seeking out new regional community partnerships and emerging public-private partnerships, like Atlanta’s Care and Conserve program, as ways to fund water-related projects.

The second panel discussion included leaders from several federal agencies and departments and addressed the critical need for greater integration of federal programs supporting water infrastructure investment in economically disadvantaged communities.  Harriet Tregoning, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), lamented that while a person's zip code shouldn’t have an impact on their basic quality of life water quality disparity is a tragic example of the social inequity that exists between communities.

In ASCE’s 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, the drinking water and wastewater categories both received “D” grades reflecting some of the challenges these leaders are trying to address. This week’s EPA conference shows agencies, departments, and service providers from across the country are trying to make changes, coming together to share the information, and make water infrastructure financing a greater reality for American communities nationwide, but there is still so much more to do. Find out what we can do to raise these grades.

Written by James Kirk, ASCE's Government Relations intern.

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