Today, an amendment to the economic stimulus package that would have added $25 billion in extra infrastructure spending failed to pass the Senate. As we noted earlier, the amendment contained an unfortunate amount of highway funding, which dwarfed mass transit investments. However, there was funding in the amendment worth salvaging: a $7 billion boost for water infrastructure projects. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) took to the Senate floor today to explain:
This amendment also increases investments in drinking water and wastewater infrastructure. We are so far behind on those programs…A recent EPA study, Mr. president, you’ll be interested in this, found that failure to increase investment in water and wastewater infrastructure could result in a $500 billion water infrastructure gap in the next 20 years…So let’s invest in water infrastructure.
In a report released last week, the American Society for Civil Engineers noted that “leaky pipes lose an estimated seven billion gallons of clean drinking water every day, while aging sewage systems send billions of gallons of untreated wastewater into waterways each year.” This seems like a worthy problem to address with stimulus dollars, instead of spending them on highways, facilitating greenhouse gas emissions and urban sprawl.
President Barack Obama proposed that the stimulus support “1,300 new wastewater projects, 380 new drinking water projects and construction of 1000 rural water and sewer systems, ensuring that 1.5 million people have new or improved service.” A report by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, meanwhile, highlighted 4,029 water infrastructure projects in 779 cities that are ready to go. Fully funding these projects could create more than 271,000 jobs, according to the Conference’s estimates.
Currently, local governments contribute 98 percent of the total investment in wastewater infrastructure and 95 percent in water infrastructure. Lessening this burden with the stimulus will quicken the pace at which these critical systems are repaired, while at the same time creating jobs. The Senate should definitely up the number of these investments, and dump highway funding by the wayside.