Matt Dempsey (202) 224-9797

Katie Brown (202) 224-2160            

Opening Statement of Senator James M. Inhofe

Ranking Member, Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works

Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife hearing entitled, "Local Government Perspectives on Water Infrastructure."

Tuesday, February 28, 2012  10:00 AM

I appreciate that that Senator Cardin and Senator Sessions have called another hearing on water infrastructure needs in our country. I have often said that the best way to ensure we are providing safe drinking water and clean water is to improve water infrastructure.  I look forward to working with them and other members of the committee this year on this vital issue.

It is clear that the United States' water infrastructure is in dire need of repair.  In the American Society of Civil Engineers' most recent report card for United States' infrastructure, they gave the wastewater and drinking water infrastructure a grade of a D-.  At our last hearing, Mr. Gregory E. DiLoreto, president- elect of ASCE testified that if current infrastructure investment trends persist, by 2020 the anticipated capital funding gap will be $84 billion. He noted that "Even with the increased use of sustainable practices and cost-effective development of other efficiency methods, the growing gap between capital needs to maintain drinking-water and wastewater treatment infrastructure and investments to meet those needs will likely result in unreliable water service and inadequate wastewater treatment."  Yesterday, the American Water Works Association released a report showing that the United States will need to spend $1 trillion in the next 25 years to maintain the current level of drinking water service and accommodate economic growth.  Because of population growth, most needs will be in the South and the West.

A nationwide investment in improving the aging water infrastructure will create jobs and protect public health and the environment.  Public investment in improving the aging water infrastructure, according to the Department of Commerce, yields significant economic benefits estimating that one dollar invested in water infrastructure generates more than $2 in economic output in other industries and that each job created in the local water and sewer industry creates nearly 4 jobs in the national economy.  The U.S. Conference of Mayors notes that each public dollar invested in water infrastructure increases private long-term GDP output by more than $6.

Given the incredible need, the incredible benefits from investment, I was extremely disappointed to see that EPA's FY13 Budget requested a decrease in funding for the Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving Fund programs for the second year in a row. Every federal dollar that EPA directs away from addressing the primary goal of the SRF programs reduce the capacity of a state to leverage federal funding and address infrastructure needs. One million in federal funds from these programs is leveraged into $3 million in capacity for funding additional infrastructure projects. As Joe Freeman, Chief Financial Assistance Division, from the Oklahoma Water Resources Board testified before this subcommittee in December, "In the past two decades, few federally authorized programs have proven as effective in realizing their intended goals as the SRF programs."

I am looking forward to hearing about the challenges facing water systems, both small and large. I continue to believe that the most successful approaches to helping water systems meet their individual water quality needs are developed at the local level. Because water challenges differ from state to state and city to city we must promote solutions that are flexible and provide solutions for both small and large systems.  We should certainly consider innovative financing approaches for water infrastructure projects.

I am especially pleased to have Kathy Horne, Executive Director of the Alabama Rural Water Association, here to share her perspectives on issues affecting rural water systems. As you know, Oklahoma has a large number of rural water systems. Rural systems often lack the financing and engineering resources of many larger systems, yet still are tasked with providing safe drinking water to the people they serve. Ensuring that treatment technologies are cost effective is critical for these systems, since they serve fewer people often over large geographical area, and costs are shared between fewer people than urban drinking water systems.  Rural populations often must pay more money to receive the same water service, which is not affordable for many rural Americans who live on fixed incomes.

Considering the importance of water infrastructure to the well being of the American people and our economy, I will continue to support investment in water infrastructure and am looking forward to hearing the testimony of our witnesses on the important issues facing both rural and urban water systems.  Thank you.