Water infrastructure spending takes big hit
The House Interior and Environment Appropriations Committee recently passed a budget that cuts the EPA's budget by $1.5b, or 18%. The budget also caps staffing levels and is clearly a means to limit what is considered EPA's regulatory overreaching.
But a non-regulatory program, the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, takes the biggest hit. The program, which provides funding to states to provide low interest loans for water infrastructure, was cut by nearly $1b, a nearly 33% decrease. The cut will further exacerbate the water infrastructure spending gap, estimated by EPA to be between $66 and $224 billion and growing, with force major projects to be delayed or even shelved.
The cut will certainly impact water infrastructure, assigned a grade of D- by the ASCE, as well as water supply and quality. It also goes against the current EPA's priority of protecting water quality. The dearth of funding will also compel cash strapped water agencies to explore innovative infrastructure financing solutions, which will likely require increasing participation from the private sector.
Project-based public-private partnerships have been successful. The success of full privatization in the US has been mixed. The budget cuts, along with crumbling local budgets, will probably drive an increasing number of water suppliers into the arms of the private sector. Whether or not the latter will participate remains to be seen.
Top Image Credit: Broken watermain © Jeff Chatterton