In communities in Montana and across the country,drinking water and sewerage systems are straining underthe weight of decades of federal government underinvest-ment. In recent years, the State Revolving Funds werefinanced at some of the lowest levels in history. For fiscal year 2008, Montana received only $11 million, a mere2.7 percent of the $420 million that the state’s water andsewer systems need.
As the troubles with our water infrastructure mount, thecountry’s economy slides deeper into recession. Mon-tana’s January 2009 unemployment rate reached 5.6percent, or about 28,200 people
up from 3.9 percent a year earlier. One in 18 people in the labor force are now unemployed.
Investing now in water and sewer systems to gener-ate solid economic growth can lead the state out of therecession.
Every federal dollar invested in infrastructureyields a $1.59 return to our states
The National Utility Contractors Association estimates that for every $1 bil-lion spent on water infrastructure, nearly 27,000 jobs arecreated.
The economic stimulus legislation passed by Congress inFebruary 2009 provides more money to water infrastruc-ture than the country has seen in recent years, but thisone-time allotment cannot cure the problems plaguingmany communities. In fact, the bill provides water andsewer systems with less than one-third of what the Envi-ronmental Protection Agency estimates we should spendeach year just to maintain them.
Montana’s Water Infrastructure Funding Gap:
Montana’s water needs outpace its current ability to fundprojects by a large margin.For the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) pro-gram, the state’s most recent Intended Use Plan lists 142projects at a total cost of at least $190 million.
In 2008,the state received
only $8.1 million
in federal funding
—enough to finance 4.3 percent of its needs.Federal contributions to Montana’s drinking waterfunding efforts have decreased by 45.1 percent since theDrinking Water SRF was implemented in fiscal 1997 and59.1 percent when adjusted for inflation.
For the Clean Water State Revolving Fund program, which goes toward wastewater infrastructure, the state’smost recent Intended Use Plan lists 119 projects at a totalcost of $229 million.
In 2008, the state received $3.3
ur nation’s water infrastructure and economy are bound together. Aidingthe former will help the latter. Unfortunately, these days, both are treadingtroubled waters.