The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Katherine Baer, 202-347-7550

Water Infrastructure Financing Act Is Step in Right Direction for Clean Water

American Rivers playing leadership role working with Senate to secure needed improvements


American Rivers today applauded the Senate introduction of the Water
Infrastructure Financing Act, a bill the nation's leading river
conservation organization says is an important step toward bringing
America's water infrastructure into the 21st century, despite falling
short in key areas. American Rivers praised senators Ben Cardin (D-MD),
Barbara Boxer (D-CA), James Inhofe (R-OK), and Mike Crapo (R-ID) for
introducing the bill, which authorizes $39 billion to help pay for
critical water infrastructure needs to reduce stormwater and wastewater
pollution across the country and also funds critical drinking water
needs. A similar bill passed the House earlier this year.

"The bill isn't perfect, but it is a great start," said Katherine
Baer, senior director for clean water at American Rivers. "Clean water
is the lifeblood of our communities, yet our nation's water
infrastructure is seriously outdated and global warming will make the
situation worse. This bill is an important step toward protecting
rivers and streams from pollution and making sure our communities have
clean drinking water."

American Rivers has fought for clean water for decades, and recently
was instrumental in securing over $6 billion in federal economic
recovery funds for clean water and green infrastructure.

Since its inception in 1987, the Clean Water State Revolving Fund
has provided $68 billion to over 20,000 projects, serving almost 95
million people. However, funding for this successful national program
has not kept pace with the serious threat sewage contamination and
polluted stormwater runoff pose, nor has the program been updated to
fund sustainable and cost-effective 21st century infrastructure.

Green infrastructure

The introduced bill includes new financial incentives for states and
municipalities to fund sustainable and cost-effective 21st century
green infrastructure and water efficiency, but unfortunately does not
include a dedicated set-aside for these innovative approaches as
provided under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the stimulus
bill signed by the President in February.

"While this bill includes some good incentives, it falls short of
the progress American Rivers helped achieve in the federal economic
recovery package," said Baer. "States across the country are already
set up to fund green projects and demand for funding well outstrips
supply in a number of states."

Green infrastructure approaches to clean water management include
using rooftop vegetation to control stormwater and reduce energy use,
restoring wetlands to retain floodwater, installing permeable pavement
to mimic the way water should naturally flow over the land, and using
potable water more efficiently. Such smart infrastructure approaches
have far-reaching benefits - they save money, reduce stormwater runoff
and sewage overflows, recharge drinking water supplies, and create
appealing natural areas for community enjoyment.

"Investments in green solutions to our water infrastructure problems
will create jobs, save money, and protect public health and safety,"
said Baer.

EPA's WaterSense program

The introduced Senate bill also authorizes the WaterSense Program at
EPA, a voluntary product labeling program that sets standards for
water-efficient products like plumbing fixtures and appliances and
allows manufacturers to certify their products under the WaterSense
label. Similar to the successful EnergyStar program, WaterSense has the
potential to save huge amounts of drinking water and reduce energy used
to move and treat water. American Rivers has been an active partner
with the WaterSense program, serving as one of only two non-profit
environmental organizations on its founding steering committee.

"We are very pleased to see strong support for the WaterSense
program. Promoting more efficient products saves water and energy and
also creates good jobs for manufacturers, plumbers and other trades,"
said Jenny Hoffner, Director for Water Efficiency at American Rivers.

Sewage pollution

While the introduced legislation includes important funding for
sewer overflow grants and monitoring for sewer overflows, it does not
include the detailed provisions in the Sewage Overflow Community Right
to Know Act (S. 937) introduced by Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ).
These right-to-know provisions require public notification when a sewer
spill has the potential to affect public health and are part of the
House-passed bill.

"American Rivers looks forward to seeing this legislation move
forward and to working with the Senate to ensure dedicated funding for
green infrastructure and water efficiency and public notification for
sewage overflows," said Baer.

American Rivers is the only national organization standing up for healthy rivers so our communities can thrive. Through national advocacy, innovative solutions and our growing network of strategic partners, we protect and promote our rivers as valuable assets that are vital to our health, safety and quality of life. Founded in 1973, American Rivers has more than 65,000 members and supporters nationwide, with offices in Washington, DC and the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast, Midwest, Southeast, California and Northwest regions.