Looking back on the legacy of the Clean Water Act (CWA) over the past 40 years, this landmark environment law has made significant advances cleaning up our water supply and improving Americans’ quality of life.
Only twenty-five years ago a third of the nation’s waters were safe for fishing and swimming, wetland losses were estimated at about 460,000 acres per year, and agricultural runoff resulted in the erosion of billions of tons of soil and deposit of large amounts of phosphorus and nitrogen into our waterways.
The Clean Water Act and subsequent legislation reversed decline in the quality of our nation’s waters. For example, the number of waterways safe for swimming and fishing have doubled since the Act was passed.
Recognizing that access to safe, drinkable water is essential to life, Clean Water Act protections should be sacrosanct. Instead, CWA, the protections it provides and environmental regulations like have been under attack by from all angles over the past few years.
A strategic plan put forth by the BlueGreen Alliance will bolster clean water protections. A strong water infrastructure system is necessary to protect watersheds, provide clean drinking water and support abundant fish and wildlife — all of which are critical to the health of our communities and local economies.
There’s a strong coalition of supporters who are behind this policy, evidenced by two events touting the benefits of this policy one in Duluth and another teleconference call with national labor leaders and environmentalists.
Yesterday in Duluth, local community, labor and environmental leaders, including Duluth Mayor Don Ness highlighted the work being done to water infrastructure in the Duluth area. Ness was joined by BlueGreen Alliance Jobs21! National Co-Chair Tarryl Clark; University of Minnesota-Duluth professor Mike Mullins; Jeff Daveau, Sr. from the Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 11; and Dave Zentner, past national president of the Izaak Walton League of America and representative from the National Wildlife Federation, at a press conference in Canal Park.
“Water infrastructure systems are critical and offer significant opportunities to create good jobs that strengthen our economy and our communities and safeguard our community’s health,” said Jeff Daveau, Sr. “The reality is that we must make significant investments and upgrades in order to adapt to the effects of climate change, maintain access to safe drinking water, and adequately treat storm and wastewater. And, while doing so, we can create good jobs, using American-made steel, iron and manufactured goods.”
Much of the water pipe around the country is between 40 and 100 years old. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave both the nation’s drinking water and wastewater a D- on the 2009 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure — a dangerous combination. However, fixing this problem is an opportunity to create jobs for American workers. The benefit of meeting this need is that it can create thousands of jobs. Every $1 billion invested in water infrastructure is estimated to create more than 20,000 new jobs.
On Wednesday, national leaders Mike Langford, President, UWUA, David Foster, Executive Director, BlueGreen Alliance, Jeremy Symons, Senior Vice President, National Wildlife Federation and Russ Breckenridge, Senior Legislative Representative of the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters, spoke in support of the newly unveiled water policy.
“Just like 40 years ago, it’s time to double down on our commitment to water protection and strong infrastructure,” said David Foster, Executive Director of the BlueGreen Alliance. “Water main breaks and flooding come at a high cost to taxpayers. Fixing our crumbling infrastructure now means averting much higher costs down the line, and putting significant numbers of people back to work sooner.”
Every $1 billion in direct investment results in an estimated $3 billion in total economic impact through industries that are directly or indirectly related to building or improving water and wastewater infrastructure, according to a study by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Additionally, each billion dollars of investment is estimated to create and sustain 20,000 jobs across the economy.
Americans shouldn’t have to worry if the water they drink is clean, although right now we’re headed in that direction. We can turn it all around if we make strategic investments to bring our country’s aging water infrastructure system into the 21st century and improve water protection and efficiency. There’s no better way to celebrate the clean water act regulations than by redoubling our efforts.
Check out press coverage of the events here: