In communities in Oregon and across the country, drink-ing water and sewerage systems are straining under the 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, Oregon received only $20 million, a mere5.7 percent of the $341 million that the state’s water andsewer systems need.
As the troubles with our water infrastructure mount, thecountry’s economy slides deeper into recession. Oregon’sJanuary 2009 unemployment rate reached 9.9 percent,or about 198,200 people
up from 5.3 percent a yearearlier. Nearly one in 10 people in the labor force are now unemployed.
Investing now in water and sewer systems to generate sol-id economic growth can lead the state out of the recession.
Every federal dollar invested in infrastructure yields a$1.59 return to our states
The National Utility Contrac-tors Association estimates that for every $1 billion spenton water infrastructure, nearly 27,000 jobs are created.
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.
Oregon’s Water Infrastructure Funding Gap:
Oregon’s water needs outpace its current ability to fundprojects by a large margin.For the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (SRF)program, the state’s most recent Intended Use Plan lists20 projects at a total cost of $30.7 million.
In 2008, thestate received
only $11.9 million
in federal funding
—enough to finance 38.8 percent of its needs.Federal contributions to Oregon’s drinking water fundingefforts have decreased by 37.0 percent since the Drink-ing Water SRF was implemented in fiscal 1997 and 53.1percent 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.