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December 8, 2009
3:01 PM

CONTACT: Food & Water Watch

Erin Greenfield at (202) 683-2457 or

Water Woes a Product of Inadequate Funding for Infrastructure Upgrades

Statement of Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch

WASHINGTON - December 8 - “Today’s New York Times article on violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act underscores the profound challenges facing municipalities around the country in delivering safe, clean water to residents. Yet, it should not be taken as a reason to condemn the public ownership of local water systems, nor should it erode public faith in government’s ability to safeguard this essential resource. If anything, it highlights a need for government to be more responsive to the water crisis facing many municipalities across the country.

“It comes as little surprise that much of the data cited in the article came from a time when our nation’s water systems were under the so-called protection of the Bush administration, which maintained a notoriously poor track record for upholding public health standards. Eighty-two percent of the violations mentioned in the article were in systems that serve fewer than 3,300 people. Fining communities that fail to meet clean water standards is no way of making sure that water quality issues are addressed, or that standards of quality are reached. In fact, doing so would only worsen the financial capacity of small towns to improve their water systems.

“These water quality issues correspond to a systematic cutback in federal funding for water and sewer systems, which reached an all time low during the 2008 budget year. Funding for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund has steadily declined over the last decade. From 2000 to 2008, federal funding to states for water fell from $970 million in 2008 dollars to $815 million. Moreover, many of the pipes in the network that comprise our nation’s water infrastructure system were built over 80 years ago, and are rapidly deteriorating as a result of neglect. When infrastructure quality suffers, so does water quality.

 “The best approach to ensuring the integrity of our water and sewer infrastructure would be to create a dedicated source of federal funding to ensure that local municipalities have a consistent source of money to maintain their water systems, thereby ensuring their ability to provide, safe, clean, affordable water for residents. A Clean Water Trust Fund would achieve this goal, while ensuring that local water utilities remain publically controlled, safe from the pitfalls of risky privatization schemes, and ultimately rendering bottled water obsolete.

“Water quality has proven too large and too vital of a challenge for municipalities to address on their own. Federal Trust Funds currently exist to support highways and botanical gardens. Water, a resource utilized by all Americans, countless times a day, deserves the same consideration.”


Food & Water Watch is a nonprofit consumer organization that works to ensure clean water and safe food. We challenge the corporate control and abuse of our food and water resources by empowering people to take action and by transforming the public consciousness about what we eat and drink.


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