Increased Investments in Affordable, Resilient and Sustainable Clean Water Infrastructure
Prior to the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972, pollution control and regulation to safeguard waterways and watersheds were minimal. Untreated sewage, trash, chemicals, oil, industrial pollution and other pollutants were entering waterways without consideration of the environmental and public health consequences. The Cuyahoga River in Ohio caught on fire. Lake Erie, one of the largest lakes in the United States, was declared functionally dead. The Willamette River here in Oregon was extensively polluted and like many other coastal waters, lakes, and rivers throughout the country was unsafe for fishing and swimming.
Water pollution had devastating impacts on local economies as well as the health and well-being of nearby communities, and people across the country were demanding action to address concerns of toxic runoff and wastewater effluent exposure.
The Clean Water State Revolving Fund
The CWA created a federal baseline for water quality standards and provided the structure to monitor, control, and protect waterways and life that depends on clean water for survival and continued health.
The Oregon Clean Water State Revolving Fund program was established in 1989 and has provided more than four billion dollars in financing to over 200 projects in Oregon since that time. These funds assist communities in planning, designing and constructing wastewater treatment plants and sewage systems, stormwater infrastructure, irrigation modernization, prevent nonpoint and point source pollution from entering waterways and help develop creative solutions for long-term water quality needs. CWSRF works with communities to fund innovative, nature-based solutions for complex water quality concerns that prioritize resilience, sustainability, and creativity.
Over the years, there have been several changes to the CWA with incentives to finance water quality and infrastructure projects including the Water Resources Reform and Development Act amendments in 2014. This legislation required CWSRF programs to provide principal forgiveness for loans to communities that meet affordability criteria and provide funding for “green projects” including water efficiency, energy efficiency, green infrastructure and environmental innovation.
Accessible clean water is essential to life. DEQ is commemorating the 50th-year celebration of the Clean Water Act and increased funding provided by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to help ensure new water quality infrastructure projects are available and affordable to communities throughout the state.
50 years ago, the Clean Water Act was a pivotal turning point for the United States that brought awareness and targeted action for protecting clean water. DEQ Water Quality Programs, including CWSRF use the tools provided by the CWA to support and finance the infrastructure that makes it possible to have clean water for generations to come.
By Alli Miller, program analyst, Oregon Clean Water State Revolving Fund