On March 2, 2006, the Bush administration proposed cuts to clean water funding at the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies hearing on the U.S. EPA fiscal year 2007 budget. This reduction would constitute the third consecutive year of cuts to the State Revolving Loan fund under the Bush administration. According to the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District, Ohio's share will continue to fall from $75.36 million in 2004 to $39.17 million in 2007.
“It's impossible to sustain the level of progress the EPA wants to see in regards to our capital program with these kinds of cuts,” said Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District Executive Director Erwin J. Odeal.
The administration is seeking to cut EPA's budget for FY 2007 by over $300 million (from FY 2006's enacted level of $7.625 billion to $7.31 billion). The vast majority of this reduction would be achieved by a proposed cut of approximately $200 million (from $887 million to $687 million) to the agency's Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) program. The CWSRF, a loan program that helps local communities repair and replace aging treatment plants, has been the primary source of federal support for clean water infrastructure projects since its creation in 1987.
Studies by the EPA, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Water Infrastructure Network (WIN) estimate a water infrastructure-funding gap exceeding $300 billion over the next 20 years.
"Although wastewater treatment agencies recognize that improved utility management and rate increases at the local level will help address this daunting funding gap, we realize that it's not enough," said Odeal.
In response, the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) is calling on Congress and the White House to support the recently introduced Clean Water Trust Act of 2005, H.R. 4560. H.R. 4560 is landmark legislation that would create a deficit-neutral, clean water trust fund to guarantee clean and safe water in America for the long term. H.R. 4560 would provide approximately $7.5 billion a year from 2006 to 2010 in loans and grants to cities, counties, towns and townships to address the backlog of critical clean water projects, meet unfunded mandates and improve utility management based on state-determined priorities.
According to NACWA's Executive Director Ken Kirk, pursuing other sources of funding is not a choice. “Without a long-term, sustainable federal-state-local partnership, communities will not be able to tackle essential capital replacement projects needed to meet federal Clean Water Act mandates and improve the quality of the nation's waters,” Kirk said.