A Mighty Wind is Blowin’

It should be clearer than ever that infrastructure funding is critical.

Last month I wrote in this space about outreach and the importance of promoting the good work you do. If you read it, thank you.

What you didn’t read was the column I started writing, about infrastructure funding and the need for a coordinated effort, from the federal government down, to rebuild and rehabilitate critical public infrastructure.

More often than I’d like, I get about three-quarters of a column written and reach a dead end — a kernel of thought that simply won’t pop. Sometimes I’ll find a way to tie it all together, but often in the process of trying to wring a point from what I’m writing, some other thought will spark in my mind and I’ll shoot off in a different direction. Those columns usually come together quick, and they’re often better, maybe more true in some ways, because it’s one string of thought conveyed as fast as I can type.  

This month, I had a hard time even getting started. I looked back at the column I scrapped last month. I still didn’t know how to hone it properly. And then an idea blew in with the weather.

It blew into Texas, actually.

A winter storm froze much of Texas in late February. It was reported that water service was disrupted to more than a third of the state’s residents. Many of those lucky enough to still have service were under boil-water advisories. But that didn’t mean they had power to heat or boil anything. Disaster declarations were issued.

Meanwhile in Washington, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee was hearing expert testimony on the need for federal funding of water infrastructure. It’s worth noting here that at the time of the Clean Water Act’s signing in 1972, about 75% of the cost of clean water was covered by the federal government. That has decreased to less than 5% today.

Apparently, somehow, it’s still not evident that we need more federal funding for water infrastructure. But we know we need more testimony.

Everyone in this industry, even those at the very best water and wastewater utilities, understands there’s a pressing need for greater funding to upgrade, expand and protect infrastructure. Previous generations made significant investments, but it’s gotten to be a hard sell. Lawmakers aren’t often celebrated for funding sewer projects. And no one wants to pay a few hundred dollars more in taxes when that money could be going toward a new iPhone.

Roads, bridges, schools, airports, railroads and, yes, water and wastewater systems — these are things we need to function as a modern, healthy society. I don’t understand what’s political about that.

Want to talk about economic stimulus? How about funding infrastructure projects that sustain economic activity at a base level and allow for growth.

Congress needs to understand that this is far more important than elections or party lines. We’ve gotten off track. The critical functions of our government have become victim of politics, to the point that funding projects aimed at improving the country, literally from the ground up, isn’t popular.

If our elected officials need to hear more testimony about the need for infrastructure funding, let them hear it. Make your voices heard. Loud and clear.

Enjoy this month’s issue. 

Comments on this column or about any article in this publication may be directed to editor Luke Laggis, 800-257-7222;  editor@mswmag.com.


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