WAY is a coalition of stakeholders being innovative leaders encouraging watershed-based planning, restoration and protection in York County, Pennsylvania, and beyond.

Monday, June 12, 2017

CLEAN WATER - Good to the last drop!

There have been numerous writings in the news media the past several weeks expressing concern to outrage at proposed "clean water" cuts to state and federal budgets.
Clean water is life! It is essential for healthy communities, vibrant economies, environmental quality, and the quality of life we enjoy here in Pennsylvania, everyday. Plato summed it up best - “Only what is rare is valuable, and water, which is the best of all things…is also the cheapest.”
A study published in Forbes magazine (Nov. 29, 2012) finds Americans willing to pay more for water according to the Value of Water report, released by global water technology and equipment provider Xylem. The report found that 75 percent of Americans were willing to pay more for water infrastructure that conserves energy and 70 percent were willing to pay more for water to ensure that all Americans have access to clean water.
Last Tuesday, June 6th, Pennsylvania's independent Citizens Advisory Council Tuesday unanimously approved the text of a letter to Senate and House Appropriations Committee Chairs expressing serious concerns about current funding levels at the Department of Environmental Protection saying, in part, “consistent cuts to DEP over the last 2 decades has reached an unsustainable level.”
“At the same time, reliance on federal funding including augmentations and special funds where appropriate have risen to cover the decreasing General Fund dollars, but this solution also has finite applicability.
 Pennsylvania advocates for the Bay and clean water are hoping for new dedicated funding to clean up the Susquehanna River in the midst of another tough budget year in Harrisburg, where environmental programs are being cut again.
Legislation has been introduced to renew Pennsylvania’s popular Growing Greener program [Senate Bill 795 (Killion-R-Delaware)], which over nearly two decades has poured roughly $1.3 billion into protecting water resources and preserving open space and farmland.
But the Growing Greener program is running short of money, and lawmakers have yet to figure out how to pay for a new round of projects.
Nor are they any closer to finding the increased funds needed to deal with Pennsylvania’s polluted streams and rivers, its lax oversight of drinking water safety or its federally mandated obligation to help clean up the Chesapeake Bay.
It is clear to me that "clean water" should be the Commonwealth's number #1 priority! All else come afterwards. The Pennsylvania Constitution states:  
§ 27.  Natural resources and the public estate.
The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania's public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.
(May 18, 1971, P.L.769, J.R.3).

What is the cost of clean water? According to the Circle of Blue's annual report on water rates, between 2010 and 2017 a family of four using 150 gallons per day on average, increase nationally from $72 to $108 per month.
So, how do we pay for clean water? In the simplest of terms, there are three ways to pay for clean water:
  1. Consumptive use (i.e., drinking water)
  2. Productive use (e.g., anybody who uses the public domain of water to produce goods and/or services for profit), and
  3. Restorative use (i.e., wastewater treatment; pollution abatement and mitigation; source water protection).
I've always been reminded of the value of clean water from the old Maxwell House coffee commercial - "good to the last drop".

We'd like to hear from you and your ideas and suggestions on how Pennsylvania should fund clean water sustainably for today, and future generations.


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