Indecent Proposals?

As we were going to press, the Bush Administration announced their proposed budget for FY 2006. Initially, it does not appear to be good news for the water and wastewater industry.
The Bush Administration is seeking to cut the EPA’s budget in FY 2006 by $500 million from $8.1 to $7.6 billion.
According to reports, the majority of this reduction includes a proposed cut of nearly $360 million, from $1.09 billion to $730 million, to the EPA’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund program.
As most of you know, the Clean Water State Revolving Fund Program is the low-interest loan program that helps local communities much like yours repair and replace aging treatment plants.
Would your community’s water or wastewater plant be able to undergo an upgrade or replacement project without these funds? The chances are slim, considering the program has been the primary source of federal support for clean water infrastructure projects since 1987.
Currently, the federal government pays into the fund and states are required to match these contributions. The fund now has a balance of approximately $52 billion, annually paying out $3.4 billion to states.
But the large gap between the infrastructure needs and the water investments appears to be growing. Over the last three years, the Bush Administration has cut the contribution to the Clean Water State Revolving Fund Program from $1.34 billion in 2004 to an estimated $730 million in 2006—a 46% decline.
The Bush Administration proposed a host of other water-related cuts as well. Three additional major water-related programs that incorporate over 150 additional programs are targeted by the Bush Administration for steep reductions or elimination. For example, the elimination of grants that fund water quality projects with states are facing elimination at the expense of $17 million; wastewater operator training grants are facing elimination at the expense of $1.5 million; and Alaska Native Villages Water Infrastructure grants face a reduction of $30 million. Other areas being primed for major cuts include the Brownfields and Superfund programs.
However, all is not lost on the Bush Administration’s slash and burn proposals. On a positive note, the administration plans to increase the Homeland Security budget, which would create a $44 million water sentinel program to protect the nation’s 9,000 drinking water systems. Concurrently, an additional $19 million was requested to help detect contamination-related occurrences.
Finally, the Bush Administration is attempting to increase funds to clean up the Great Lakes by requesting $50 million this time around after requesting $45 million and receving $22 million last year.
As in years past, the Bush Administration offers up drastic proposed cuts only to be countered by the efforts of Congress who manage to at least make the funding levels somewhat acceptable.
For now, all signs point to the water and wastewater industry relying on Congress again to bail out the FY 2006 budgets.
On another note, be sure to visit Water & Wastes Digest (Booth #553) at the Water Quality Association’s Aquatech 2005 event in Las Vegas from March 30 to April 1. This inaugural event examines a wide variety of water treatment technologies and applications. For more information, visit www.wqa.org.

Tim Gregorski, Editorial Director
tgregorski@sgcmail.com

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