In communities in North Carolina 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, North Carolina received only $40 million,one-fifth of the $196 million that the state’s water andsewer systems need.
As the troubles with our water infrastructure mount, thecountry’s economy slides deeper into recession. NorthCarolina’s January 2009 unemployment rate reached 9.7percent, or about 443,100 people
up from 5.0 percent a year earlier. Nearly one in 10 people in the labor force arenow 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.
North Carolina’s Water Infrastructure FundingGap:
North Carolina’s water needs outpace its cur-rent ability to fund projects by a large margin.For the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (SRF)program, the state’s most recent Intended Use Plan lists13 projects at a total cost of at least $66 million.
In 2008,the state received
only $27.4 million
in federal funding
— enough to finance two-fifths of its needs.Federal contributions to North Carolina’s drinking waterfunding efforts have decreased by 40.6 percent since theDrinking Water SRF was implemented in fiscal 1997 and55.7 percent when adjusted for inflation.
For the Clean Water State Revolving Fund program, which goes toward wastewater infrastructure, the state’s
ur nation’s water infrastructure and economy are bound together. Aidingthe former will help the latter. Unfortunately, these days, both are treadingtroubled waters.