Signs of Life :: Stimulus for Clean Water?


Campaign for Public Water Trust

Citizen groups like Food and Water Watch are asking Congress and the Obama administration to tackle the nation’s water infrastructure crisis, a problem they say has not sufficiently been addressed by the president’s proposed economic stimulus. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (Ore.) has lent his support and will be crafting legislation this spring for a public water trust fund, which would help secure an ongoing source of federal money for water projects.

The U.S. has 72,000 miles of pipe, some more than 100 years old. Federal agencies estimate that between $300 and $500 billion is needed over the next 20 years to repair our aging water infrastructure and halt pollution. Currently, one trillion gallons of untreated water end up in our rivers, lakes, and streams each year as a result of poorly functioning water systems.

This crisis is putting ecosystems and people at risk, but help from the federal government is virtually nonexistent. Since 1978, the federal government’s contribution to overall spending for clean water has shrunk from 78 percent to 3 percent. These numbers are reflected every day in beach closings and water advisories from sewage overflows. Many municipalities have opted to turn operation of their public water systems over to private companies in an attempt to draw private investment into upkeep. Unbelievably, almost half of our waterways in the U.S. don’t meet water quality standards.

“We have trust funds for highways, airports, and social security. So, why should support for the liquid that sustains all life be any different?” asked Wenonah Hauter, the executive director of Food and Water Watch. “Clean water, a public resource used by all Americans, certainly warrants federal support and deserves the same protection.”

—Tara Lohan is managing editor at Alternet.



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