At the outset, I would like to recognize Senator Reid and Senator Ensign for their leadership in addressing these serious public health and economic concerns and thank them for advancing the dialog on the national level.
As the fastest growing and one of the most urbanized states in the country, infrastructure development and maintenance are critical to the health and well being of our citizens and visitors. Obviously, the need is great in Nevada's major urban centers where the majority of this growth is occurring. Paradoxically however, the need is no less important in our rural communities where mining and agriculture are struggling and where funding is often not available for even the most basic wastewater collection and treatment systems or for providing adequate and safe supplies of drinking water.
Nevada has long supported its communities with state supported grant and loan programs for water and wastewater. Like all states, however, we have been asked to undertake significant new responsibilities under the Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water Acts without the resources necessary to carry out those responsibilities. As a result, federal assistance is vitally important and, frankly, the only way communities can achieve and maintain regulatory compliance to protect public health and maintain and improve environmental quality. Without increased funding at the federal level, state drinking water and wastewater programs are facing crisis conditions.
Let me give you some examples of the needs within our small state.
On the clean water side of the equation, the State of Nevada has operated a construction grants program or a revolving loan program for over twenty years and has provided greatly needed financial assistance to rural and urban communities alike. For example, the rapidly growing communities of Henderson, Reno and Sparks have taken advantage of these programs and constructed some of the most sophisticated wastewater treatment systems in the country. This has allowed these communities to meet the requirements of the Clean Water Act and maintain and enhance water quality in the Colorado and Truckee Rivers. This provides high quality water for downstream users, wildlife habitat and the sustainability of endangered species. Similarly, small communities in Nevada, such as Silver Springs, have used these funds to meet waste collection and treatment needs and, for the first time, provide this basic service to their citizens while protecting vital groundwater resources.
The problem is that demand for these funds greatly exceeds availability. For the year 2000, we had $152 million dollars in proposed projects submitted to the Clean Water SRF for funding; for 2001, $166 million, and we anticipate similar increases throughout the next decade. Compare this demand with the average available program funding which is a mere $14 million.
In an attempt to overcome this funding gap, we work closely with other entities such as economic development agencies and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Assistance Program to leverage available funds and meet community needs. Yet dramatic shortfalls still occur. This means that facilities must be funded using alternative sources, or, as most often occurs, projects simply do not happen.
What does this mean for a community?
Sometimes it means that collection lines cannot be built to serve a residential development historically on septic systems where ground water contamination is occurring. Perhaps new treatment units cannot be constructed at a wastewater treatment plant resulting in environmental impairment and the potential for fines and litigation. In some communities it means they cannot meet the needs of growth and must initiate moratoriums or limits on residential and industrial development.
On the drinking water side of the equation, the prospects are not any brighter.
In Nevada, as in the rest of the country, there is a need to refurbish and, in many cases, replace the pipes, lines and treatment facilities that supply our drinking water. Systems age and without the proper care and maintenance reliability is reduced, costs increase and in extreme cases public health impacted. The year 2000 priority list for Nevada through the Drinking Water Revolving Loan program showed that over three quarters of a million dollars was needed to address acute health concerns associated with community water systems. An additional $35.8 million is needed to address chronic concerns and $94.8 million for system rehabilitation.
Add to this the ever-increasing demands of the regulatory environment. In the next few years we can expect new federal rules dealing with ground water disinfection, enhanced surface water treatment, and modified contaminant monitoring and screening. All with good intentions with the goal of public health in mind, but costly to implement and maintain. Nationally, it has been estimated that for the drinking water program alone, an $83 million dollar gap exists for states to implement the program and billions per year for system upgrades and repairs.
In closing, we in Nevada intend to do our part to continue to fund programs, to provide grants and loans to our communities large and small, and to advocate for increased support for water and wastewater infrastructure. We will continue to participate in a dialog along with our fellow state representatives and through national associations such as the Environmental Council of the States, Association of State Water Pollution Control Administrators and Association of State Drinking Water Administrators. The challenges are great, the resources limited, and the stakes of public health and environmental quality high. I ask for your careful consideration in making water and drinking water infrastructure funding a national priority.