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American Metropolitan Water Association's 2003 Legislation and Regulatory Conference, Washington, D.C.

Remarks of Governor Christine Todd Whitman,
Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,
to the
American Metropolitan Water Association = s
2003 Legislation and Regulatory Conference
Washington, D.C.

March 31, 2003

Thank you, John (Sullivan), for that introduction. I = m pleased to be with you today to discuss two very important issues confronting you and your counterparts across America = s drinking water sector: keeping America = s water infrastructure safe from terrorist attack and improving that same infrastructure to meet the demands of the 21st century.

With the onset of war in Iraq, and the heightened state of security here at home, protecting America= s water infrastructure against acts of terrorism is not just a question of environmental security, it= s a national security imperative as well.

I am pleased to report that the nation = s water sector has done an admirable job responding to the new realities we have faced since September 11th . You have risen to the challenge these difficult times present. For our part, we have worked to support your efforts with funds, with advice, and with expertise. The work we have done together can be a model for other critical infrastructure sectors.

Of course, EPA= s commitment to water security pre-dated September 11th . As a result of Presidential Decision Directives signed in the late nineties, we had begun working with you and others in your industry to evaluate preventive and protective measures that could and should be taken against the possibility of terrorist attacks on the Nation = s water infrastructure.

Immediately following 9-11, I directed that these various efforts be accelerated. I also created a Water Protection Task Force in the Office of Water to coordinate our efforts in this important area. Due to a great deal of hard work and effort, we were able to complete, months ahead of schedule, the development of a vulnerability assessment methodology for water utilities. We were then able to initiate training for operators in the use of the methodology.

Our Water Protection Task Force B which has been ably led by Janet Pawlukiewicz [PAV- luh-kev-itch] B has also created several important documents that have helped define our work and advance yours. Last year, they completed a comprehensive State of the Knowledge assessment, which has been an invaluable tool for guiding our research efforts. They also developed and disseminated to utilities the Baseline Threat Information for Vulnerability Assessments of Community Water Systems , which is helping you and your counterparts as you undertake your security work.

In addition B as you know well, because you helped make it happen B we also were able to bring the water ISAC (Information Sharing and Analysis Center) on-line months earlier than scheduled. I would be remiss if I did not recognize Diane VanDe Hei for the work she and her staff did to get the ISAC up and running as quickly as possible.

Recently, one of the new senior officials in the Department of Homeland Security pointed to the water ISAC as one of the best among all the critical infrastructure sectors. You should be proud of the work this organization has done. If your company has not already subscribed to the water ISAC, I urge you to do so.

On top of all this, thanks to a supplemental appropriation from Congress, $90 million was made available to the Agency to support the development of vulnerability assessments and security enhancements at thousands of individual utilities. We broke all records in getting money out the door to those who needed it. We disbursed in excess of $50 million to more than 400 of the nation= s largest utilities in just a few months.

Working with states and technical assistance providers, we also dedicated more than $20 million to support similar efforts at medium and small-sized utilities. Ensuring that these utilities receive the support they need is a real priority for me. We must make certain their needs are addressed as well.

Our assigned role as the lead federal agency for the protection of the nation = s water infrastructure was expanded with the enactment of the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness Response Act this past June.

Under this new law, every public drinking water utility that serves 3,300 or more people B that's nearly 9,000 utilities B is required to conduct a vulnerability assessment. They then must revise their existing emergency response plans within 6 months of completing the vulnerability assessment.

The largest utilities are to have completed their assessments and submitted them to EPA no later than today. We have already received more than one hundred assessments.

I want to allay any concern some may have about the Agency = s ability to handle these assessments in a secure fashion. We have established a rigorous set of protocols to ensure that the vulnerability assessments we receive are invulnerable to release. We are treating these assessments as rigorously as we would treat classified information. They are stored in secure safes in a secure location. We are limiting access to those who hold a current, secret-level security clearance. They will remain secure.

All of the work we are doing has been the result of true partnerships. Working together with state and local governments, and with you, I believe we have made tremendous progress toward our shared goal of reducing the vulnerability of our water infrastructure to attack. And the fact of the matter is you are the ones who are doing most of the work. With 165,000 public water utilities, and 16,000 public wastewater utilities in America, there is simply no way the federal government can get this job done alone.

On my visits to several water facilities around the country, I = ve been enormously impressed both with the level of commitment and with the efforts that are underway. From the use of such simple steps as increased vigilance to some cutting-edge technological efforts, America = s water sector is meeting its responsibility to the people it serves and to the Nation.

Of course, while we must be vigilant in protecting our water infrastructure from terrorist attack, we must also ensure that we protect our systems from the ravages of time. As you know, the needs of America = s aging water infrastructure are great, and it is still not clear how those needs will be met. But we know a lot more now than when I spoke with you last year at this meeting.

Last fall, EPA released the Clean Water and Drinking Water Infrastructure Gap Analysis . This report takes a good, hard look at what America = s water infrastructure needs will be through the year 2019.

In this report, we defined infrastructure in the broad sense B everything it takes to deliver clean, safe water to America = s homes and businesses and then remove and treat the waste water that results. From the water intake valve to the tap, from the kitchen sink drain to the outflow at the treatment plant, we looked at the entire picture.

As you know, the funding gap we identified from now through 2019 is significant. Assuming no growth in revenues, the total needed for clean water B in both capital and operations and maintenance B exceeds $270 billion. For drinking water, the gap approaches $265 billion.

The size of the projected gap can be reduced substantially if we project real growth in revenues over the same period. Assuming a 3 percent annual real growth in revenues, for example, the gap shrinks by nearly 90 percent on the clean water side and by about 80 percent on the drinking water side.

The actual gap may end up somewhere in between these numbers B and there are an enormous number of considerations that will go into determining exactly how big the gap will be over time. But what = s important now is that we begin the discussion of how to close the gap with a better understanding of what the dimensions of the challenge really are.

Of course, one thing is clear B the challenge we face is clearly beyond the ability of any one entity to address. It will require the participation and contribution of government at all levels, utilities, and users. As local officials, you are on the front lines whenever a water main breaks or a sewage system fails. But we = re not looking to leave you hanging out there all alone.

The Bush Administration is committed to ensuring that the federal government does its share, and I know Congress is also considering various methods to address the situation. Of course, states, municipalities, and utilities will also need to do their part. Given the gap, we estimate that utilities will have to increase their own investment at an annual real rate of growth of 3 percent.

Money alone is not the answer. We need to tap into the creative, innovative thinking of the water community to find less costly and more efficient ways to narrow the gap. Only by embracing innovations that have been resisted by some in the past can we make the progress we need.

I should mention that the innovations we need should include efforts to promote conservation and smart water use, not just by the user, but by the utility as well. A faucet in someone= s home that leaks just a drop every three seconds wastes more than 1,000 gallons of water a year. But a leaky water delivery system can waste billions of gallons of water annually. That = s something we can = t afford and we must fix.

While the security and future integrity of our water infrastructure have received the most attention recently, I don't want to leave here today without giving you a brief rundown of the administration's proposed budget for water for FY 04. It reflects the President's strong commitment to clean and safe water and will help us meet our goal of leaving America's water cleaner than we found it.

The President= s FY 04 budget places a strong emphasis on our core water programs, which have proven so successful over the years. We propose to increase spending on these programs by $55 million, for a total of $470 million.

This includes a $5 million increase in grants to help state, local, and tribal governments protect wetlands and $20 million to again fund the program we began last year to help advance watershed protection efforts in 20 additional threatened watersheds around the Nation.

This budget also seeks $850 million for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, which is less than we requested last year. However, the Administration is committed to financing the Clean Water SRF at this level through fiscal year 2011 B six years beyond any previous commitment. This means the long-term revolving level of the fund will be $2.8 billion, a 40 percent increase over the $2 billion commitment made by the previous Administration.

We also propose to fund the Drinking Water SRF at $850 million a year through 2018, so it can revolve at $1.2 billion a year B a 140 percent increase over the previous goal of $500 million.

As we move forward with our efforts to sustain and protect our water resources, the only way we will achieve the progress we all seek is by working together, as partners. The challenges are great, but the forces we can bring together to meet them are greater.

That= s why the focus of all our future efforts is you and your counterparts around the Nation. The need to protect our water infrastructure against attack, and against the ravages of time, will be with us for a long time. We will continue to support you in any way we can to meet our shared goal of ensuring the safety, security, and reliability of America = s water supply.

Thank you.