Republicans and Democrats Push for Investment in Water Infrastructure in Policy Platforms

As record droughts have affected the American landscape in 2012, Republicans and Democrats alike have shown an interest in furthering investment in water infrastructure. Both parties included water policy issues in their 2012 national policy platforms. This is a momentous occurrence since it marks the first time ever Republicans and Democrats have both pressed for water infrastructure in their policy platforms.

The Water Environment Foundation (“WEF”), a non-profit organization that provides educational and technical training for water professionals, sent letters to the parties’ policy drafting committees. The WEF advocated for inclusion of water policy in the parties’ agendas by stating that a healthy water infrastructure is vital for economic growth and the environment. According to the WEF, America’s water infrastructure is failing and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency predicts that by 2020 there will be an $84 billion gap between our national water needs—such as investment in wastewater and drinking water infrastructure—and what is invested in other national priorities.

In a victory for the WEF, Republicans and Democrats included language concerning water infrastructure in their 2012 policy agendas. The Republican national policy platform states that investment in drinking water systems, dams, wastewater systems, levees, and inland waterways “can renew communities, attract businesses, and create jobs . . . [but] [m]ost importantly it can assure the health and safety of the American people.” Moreover, the Republican platform recognizes the tenuous condition of the current infrastructure claiming, “[w]hat most Americans take for granted—the safety and availability of our water supply—is in perilous condition. Engineering surveys report crumbling drinking water systems, aging dams, and overwhelmed wastewater infrastructure.” Similarly, the Democratic national policy platform states, “[w]e support strengthening rural water [and] sewer…infrastructure to make rural businesses more competitive.” In addition, the Democratic platform advocates for protecting the integrity of American waters which are essential for “drinking, swimming, and fishing by supporting initiatives that restore our rivers, oceans, coasts, and watersheds.”

The 2012 policy platforms come on the heels of the worst American drought and highest temperatures in 75 years. In much of the western and central United States, there has been lower than average snow cover and rainfall. This directly impacts national water issues, from drinking water supply to agricultural and electricity uses. Meanwhile, water consumption is growing due to increases in population. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that Americans consume about 100 gallons of water per day, demonstrating the growing disparity between demand and supply.

While there is still a long way to go in bringing water issues into the national discussion, it is a step in the right direction for both political parties to articulate support for investment in water infrastructure in their policy platforms. Water provides the backbone for a strong economy. It is essential for agriculture, industry, and recreation. Drinking water and wastewater systems are vital to the wellbeing of the American people. In order to bring water policy issues into the national conversation, the political parties should continue to spearhead the discussion.