Rice Resolution Urges Congress To Invest In Aging Public Water Systems

Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee Chair, Senator Ronald L. Rice, D-Essex, speaks at a meeting of his committee.

Says Dedicated Fund Necessary to Upgrade Public Water and Wastewater Infrastructure

TRENTON – A Senate Resolution sponsored by State Senator Ronald L. Rice which would urge Congress to enact legislation to dedicate funds for the upgrading and repair of aging public water and wastewater systems was unanimously approved by the Senate Environment and Energy committee today.

“The federal government dedicates funding for transportation projects and environmental cleanup because it recognizes that these sorts of projects have value for the greater public good,” said Senator Rice, D-Essex. “There’s no question that access to clean drinking water is a public benefit, and we ought to fund repairs and upgrades necessary to make sure we have a safe, reliable water and wastewater infrastructure for years to come. This is a matter of public safety for New Jersey’s communities, many of which are dealing with budget shortfalls and aging pipes and do not have the resources to upgrade their water systems on their own.”

The resolution, SR-83, would urge Congress to enact legislation which dedicates an adequate level of funding to renew America’s water infrastructure. The resolution requests that funds be restricted to publicly-owned water systems, and that funding be provided for workforce development to offer targeted training and hiring of local employees to maintain and update water systems. The resolution also urges Congress to dedicate a portion of the funding to green infrastructure development to alleviate the stress on stormwater infrastructure and mitigate nonpoint source pollution from industrial, agricultural or urban runoff.

Senator Rice noted that the lack of investment in critical water systems in New Jersey has reached crisis levels. He said that the number of pipes which are 100 years old or older is growing, and he noted that the nonprofit Food & Water Watch estimates that the State’s publicly-owned water systems need an investment of $4.5 billion to protect water quality and public safety. As a result of chronic budget shortfalls, reduced municipal aid, and the severity of the need for investment in water systems, many municipalities have sought to privatize water and wastewater operations, leaving New Jersey residents with less protection from rate gouging and the public utility workforce with less job protections.

“Unless we invest in water and wastewater infrastructure improvements, we’re putting public safety at risk,” said Senator Rice. “I recognize it might be hard to justify new expenses for the State and hard-hit municipalities, but if we work together with the federal government, we can meet the funding needs and retain local control of water systems. With the support of the federal government, we can continue to ensure that New Jersey residents have access to clean, drinkable water well into the future.”

The resolution now heads to the full Senate for consideration.