Media Contact: Lori Harrison, (703) 684-2480


April 17, 2013

View as PDF 

Water Community Calls for Reinvestment in Water Infrastructure to be a Top National Priority

Funding Priority for “Invisible Infrastructure” was the Key Message at Successful Summit and Concurrent Congressional Testimony Yesterday in Washington, DC 

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – The message yesterday in Washington was loud and clear: investment in water infrastructure is an investment in America’s future. Top water leaders from the private and public sector joined together in Washington, DC to make the business case for water infrastructure investment during the well-attended National Water Infrastructure Summit and concurrent testimony before the House Interior and Environment Subcommittee on Appropriations.

Organized by the Water Environment Federation (WEF), and the national Water for Jobs campaign partners, the free summit raised awareness about the need for resilient water infrastructure and how reinvestment in water creates jobs, drives innovation and safeguards public health. At the same time, Matthew Millea, Deputy County Executive for Physical Services for the County of Onondaga (NY) sought additional federal funding for clean water projects as he testified before the House Interior and Environment Subcommittee on Appropriations.

Summit Moderator John R. Bigelow, Senior Vice President of Business Services for American Water, opened the discussion by offering some perspective on the sheer vastness of this largely invisible network of pipes and tunnels—nearly 1.4 million miles span across the U.S., which is eight times the length of the U.S. highway system—its reliability and need for attention. Much of the U.S. infrastructure was built more than a century ago and currently around 10% of these systems are at the end of their service life. If not addressed by 2020, this number could rise to 44%.

Without attention, failing infrastructure could result in more disruptions of service, threats to public health, the economy, the environment and quality of life. Rather than continuing to borrow from the future to fix the problems of today, DC Water General Manager George Hawkins urged everyone to run towards the problem and work together to find solutions. When asked how many jobs water creates, he stated, “all of them.” The water sector essentially creates all jobs, because without adequate water and wastewater services you can’t have growth and development.

Economist George Schink, Ph.D., Managing Director and Principal of Navigant Economics, supported this point by stating that investment in water and wastewater infrastructure offers the biggest bang for the buck when compared to other types of infrastructure. 

All of the panelists agreed with Howard Neukrug, Commissioner of the Philadelphia Water Department, who said that failure is not an option, [we need water to survive] and a solid plan going forward is needed. They also agreed that public awareness, although better than before, remains a challenge but it can be done. For Harlan Kelly, Jr., General Manager, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, it took an earthquake to gain his community’s attention but it shouldn’t take something that dramatic to expose our reliance on this precious resource. Carter Strickland, Commissioner of the New York City of Environmental Protection, believes it’s a matter of tapping into reality by looking at what people value and showing how that connects to water.

WEF and others believe that Congress can also do more to support local investments in water infrastructure. “This is a very important time to ensure our voice is heard,” said Millea, who testified on behalf of WEF. “Appearing before the Appropriations subcommittee will help to ensure that we’re sending a clear and consistent message to Capitol Hill.”

“In an age of fiscal cliffs, credit downgrading and record deficits, many are skeptical about the timing of pushing for aggressive investment in water infrastructure,” said WEF President Cordell Samuels. “More than 40 years of data clearly shows this is a false choice. Water infrastructure is the backbone of our economy and investment creates and preserves long-term quality jobs.  So the question is not why would we invest in these tough economic times but rather why would we not?”

For complete summit details, including the full list of panelists and link to the livestream recording, visit www.WaterforJobs.org. Click here to read the complete congressional testimony.

About the National Water Infrastructure Summit 

The National Water Infrastructure Summit was a key activity of the Water for Jobs: Water Puts America to Work campaign that WEF launched ahead of the 2012 Presidential election. The campaign, which makes the business case for water infrastructure investment, has the support of 19 national partners and 35 WEF member associations representing more than 31,000 water quality professionals nationwide. The partnership is using this effort and the summit to raise awareness about this critical issue and to send a unified message to our elected officials that investment in water infrastructure is an investment in America’s future.

 About WEF 

Founded in 1928, the Water Environment Federation (WEF) is a not-for-profit technical and educational organization of 36,000 individual members and 75 affiliated Member Associations representing water quality professionals around the world. WEF members, Member Associations, and staff proudly work to achieve our mission to provide bold leadership, champion innovation, connect water professionals, and leverage knowledge to support clean and safe water worldwide. To learn more, visit www.wef.org.