On June 5, 2017, the World Wildlife Fund, the Coca-Cola Company, and the World Water Council co-hosted “Sharing Water,” an all-day conference in Washington, D.C. focused on sharing water across people, governments, businesses, and nature. This event, which featured D.C. Water’s CEO George Hawkins, Mayor Dr. Karen Weaver of Flint, Michigan, and speakers from the World Bank Group and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), among others, was held in preparation for the world’s largest meeting on water to be held in Brazil next March, the 8th World Water Forum.
In the opening of his keynote address, Dr. Peter Grevatt, the Director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Groundwater and Drinking Water, said that “Every community, job, business, and family requires safe drinking water to be available.” In the U.S., drinking water is delivered via one million miles of pipes, many of which were laid in the early to mid-20th century with a lifespan of 75 to 100 years. The American Water Works Association estimates that $1 trillion will be needed to upgrade existing water systems and to meet the drinking water infrastructure needs over the next 25 years.
Dr. Grevatt then provided the audience with several examples of recent water main breaks in the country, just a few of the estimated 240,000 water main breaks per year that waste over two trillion gallons of treated drinking water and result in millions of dollars of economic loss. In fact, ASCE’s 2017 Infrastructure Report Card graded the nation’s drinking water a “D.”
In his closing remarks, Dr. Grevatt said “There is no [government] program more personal to the American public than safe drinking water” and praised the role that the EPA’s Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) and the Clean Water State Revolving Funds (CWSRF) play in ensuring safe drinking water to the American public and in providing low-interest loans for state and local water infrastructure projects. In his Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Request released last month, President Trump proposed $2.3 billion for the State Revolving Funds, a $4 million increase from FY17 enacted levels.
Dr. Grevatt also spoke of the critical importance of the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program in funding large water infrastructure projects over $20 million. The EPA estimates that $1 billion in credit assistance may finance over $2 billion in water infrastructure investments, and the agency recently announced that in response to its Notice of Funding Availability issued in January 2017, it received 43 letters of interest from prospective borrowers across the nation.
As the nation’s drinking water and wastewater infrastructure ages, the cost to repair and replace our pipes and treatment systems will continue to increase. The ASCE urges Congress to reauthorize the minimum federal funding of the DWSRF and CWSRF at $20 billion over five years and $15 billion over five years, respectively, and encourages Congress to fully fund WIFIA at $175 million over five years.