The nation’s 14,748 wastewater treatment plants are the most basic and critical infrastructure systems for protecting public health and the environment. Years of treatment plant upgrades and more stringent federal and state regulations have significantly reduced untreated releases and improved water quality nationwide. It’s expected that more than 56 million new users will be connected to centralized treatment systems over the next two decades, requiring at least $271 billion to meet current and future demands. New methods and technologies turn waste into energy relying on the nation’s 1,269 biogas plants to help communities to better manage waste streams through reuse.
Wastewater removal and treatment is critical to protect public health. Wastewater treatment processes improve water quality by reducing toxins that cause harm to humans and pollute rivers, lakes, and oceans. Wastewater enters the treatment system from households, business, and industry through public sewer lines and, in many places across the country, stormwater drains.
The EPA estimates $271 billion is needed for wastewater infrastructure over the next 25 years. While the federal government provides some funding through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF), according to the U.S. Conference of Mayors 95% of spending on water infrastructure is made at the local level.
Treatment plants are typically located at the bottom of watersheds or coastal and riverine areas. Given these locations, many utilities have recently undertaken studies to assess vulnerability to more extreme flooding events and sea level rise. For instance, during Superstorm Sandy in 2012, several wastewater treatment plants in New York and New Jersey were inundated with storm surge, causing hundreds of millions of gallons of untreated sewage to spill into neighboring waterways. In the years since, many of these plants and others across the U.S. have developed resilience plans and increased infrastructure fortification against floods and storm surge.
Reinvigorate the State Revolving Loan Fund (SRF) under the Clean Water Act by reauthorizing the minimum federal funding of $20 billion over five years.
Fully fund the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) at its authorized level.
Preserve tax exempt municipal bond financing. Low‐cost access to capital helps keep lending for wastewater upgrades strong and accessible for communities large and small.
Eliminate the state cap on private activity bonds for water infrastructure projects to bring an estimated $6 billion to $7 billion annually in new private financing.
Establish a federal Water Infrastructure Trust Fund to finance the national shortfall in funding of infrastructure systems under the Clean Water Act.
Preserve the status of tax-exempt bonds. These bonds have funded more than $1.9 trillion in infrastructure construction in the last decade alone.
Raise awareness of the true cost of wastewater treatment.
Achieve Clean Water Act compliance in a way that minimizes the impact on lower-income residents and on economic competitiveness through bill payment assistance; revisiting EPA affordability guidelines; renewed or enhanced federal and state aid; and redirecting other aid sources to sewer-mandate compliance.
Support green infrastructure, which provides co-benefits such as water and air quality improvement, aesthetic value to communities, and cost competitiveness.