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Commentary

Investing in waterworks is an investment in the nation

Special To The Tampa Tribune
Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 01:56 PM

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During this hyper-partisan election season, a rare chance exists to stand together and support a truly bipartisan cause that affects every American — the desperate need to invest in our nation's crumbling water infrastructure.

Both President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney are focused on the economy and job creation but have made no mention of water infrastructure. Meanwhile, the widespread deterioration of America's water infrastructure is reaching a critical stage.

With this crisis comes incredible opportunity: Forty years of experience proves that investing in water infrastructure creates jobs and boosts the nation's economy. With millions of Americans out of work, the timing could not be better to reinvest in our essential water infrastructure.

I am the president of the Florida Water Environment Association. FWEA was founded in 1941 and represents Florida's water quality professionals responsible for protecting Florida's clean water environment through education programs, professional development and the promotion of sound public policy. We are working to send a strong message to Congress and the president that investing in water is an investment in America.

In Florida, we will have an estimated $24.09 billion in drinking water and wastewater infrastructure needs by 2020. In that same timeframe, we will see a nationwide capital funding gap of at least $224 billion unless investment increases.

Some argue that we can't afford these investments during a time of economic distress. To the contrary, we can't afford to neglect our infrastructure any longer.

Investing in water infrastructure creates good-paying jobs to repair, replace and upgrade our aging water systems. Such investment will ensure safe and reliable water to attract and retain industry, business, and qualified workers — all essential to any thriving community.

According to a recent report by the American Society of Civil Engineers, failure to make the necessary investments may lead to $206 billion in increased costs for businesses and households between now and 2020, and unless the infrastructure deficit is addressed by 2040, 1.4 million jobs could be at risk.

Water infrastructure investment is also critical to protect public health and our quality of life, and it promotes innovative technologies that can help keep America competitive. A recent survey found that 95 percent of voters rank clean water as the most important service government provides. Despite this overwhelming public support, the federal role in funding water infrastructure has declined steadily over the past two decades.

During the recent political conventions, both parties adopted platform language recognizing the economic importance of clean and safe water. We need to make sure that these platform promises don't collect dust after the election and demand that our elected officials put America back to work by making water a top priority.


Paul Pinault of Fort Myers is a professional engineer.

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