News > News > Water Quality > Budget Agreement: $200 million in Drinking Water and Sewer Infrastructure Grants

Budget Agreement: $200 million in Drinking Water and Sewer Infrastructure Grants

For Immediate Release: March 31, 2015

Riverkeeper – Cliff Weathers: 914-478-4501 x239
Adirondack Council – John Sheehan: 518-441-1340
Environmental Advocates – Travis Proulx: 518-462-5526 x238
NYLCV – Jordan Levine: 212-361-6350 x206
Citizen’s Campaign for the Environment – Adrienne Esposito: 631-384-1378

New program to provide critical assistance to local communities statewide.

Albany, NY – New York communities can tap $200 million in state matching grants for clean water infrastructure over a three-year period under a budget agreement reached Tuesday between the state legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration. There will be $50 million available in the current budget, and $75 million in each of the next two.

Called the “New York State Water Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2015,” the program at the heart of this agreement puts in place a mechanism to close the funding gap for communities facing billions in backlogged water infrastructure projects, critical for protecting public health and clean water and essential for attracting and retaining private business investment. Funding for the first three years of the program has been incorporated into the state’s General Fund. The agreement establishes a program that will be part of the state budget process moving forward.

The state estimates that communities are facing $75 billion in unmet clean water infrastructure needs over the next two decades. (The Department of Environmental Conservation has estimated the need for wastewater infrastructure at $36 billion, and the Department of Health has estimated the need for drinking water infrastructure at nearly $39 billion.)

New York’s crumbling infrastructure has had devastating consequences for the state’s communities. Syracuse has experienced some 100 water main breaks this year, while Erie County has had more than 350. New York City’s wastewater infrastructure dumps more than 30 billion gallons of raw sewage and stormwater into New York Harbor and surrounding waterways every year, while Long Island communities face a more than $4 billion hole for their immediate wastewater needs. All these incidents result in boil water alerts, closed roadways and waterways, a lack of access to drinking water, and even businesses and schools having to close. It undermines public health, safety, and our ability to attract new development.

Under this agreement, the state will cover up to 60 percent of municipalities’ water infrastructure project costs, with a cap at $5 million per project. By agreeing to cover by grants 60 percent of each project, the state is acknowledging the need of strapped communities for assistance in paying for water infrastructure projects, considering the limitations put on them through borrowing costs and the state’s 2-percent tax cap. It still places a burden on municipalities, particularly rural and Upstate communities, to identify their portion of project costs.

“State lawmakers understand that if you take clean water for granted, you won’t have it for long,” said Riverkeeper President Paul Gallay. “By investing $200 Million in our aging water infrastructure, New York leaders cast a big vote for healthy communities and rivers that teem with wildlife, not pollution. Our thanks go out to them for it.”

“This is a good first step in the right direction to fix our aging water infrastructure amid a record number of water main breaks over the winter,” said Marcia Bystryn, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters. “Hearing the pleas of municipal governments and voters around the state, the Governor and Legislature are taking action to help protect our clean water. Now we must work together to build on this year’s allocation and create a dedicated fund that will eventually put all of New York’s water pipes and sewers in a state of good repair.”

The coalition recognizes the efforts of the Legislature – in particular Assembly Members Steven Englebright, John McDonald, Steven Otis, and Senators John DeFrancisco, Carl Marcellino and Thomas F. O’Mara – for calling attention to our communities’ water infrastructure needs and limited ability to pay for these projects. We appreciate Gov. Cuomo for taking action on this critical issue.

“Establishing a long term funding mechanism to help municipalities overcome the significant financial hurdles of upgrading sewer infrastructure and providing clean water is a terrific win for all New Yorkers. $200 million will allow more projects to advance and alleviates some of the financial burden from the local taxpayers. This new budget program holds the promise of a renewed commitment to provide long term funding for essential water infrastructure upgrades,” said Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

Peter Iwanowicz, executive director of Environmental Advocates of New York said, “Now that the program for including drinking water and sewer investments is part of the state budget, it should be standard operating procedure every year to identify need and invest in our communities’ drinking and sewer systems. Our needs are enormous and growing, and next year municipal leaders and advocates will be urging investments at the levels needed to protect public health, our environment, and facilitate true economic development.”

“This kind of investment in clean water systems can help small Adirondack Park communities rebuild facilities to better handle local business, residents and 10 million annual visitors,” said Adirondack Council Executive Director William C. Janeway. “We have world-class scenery and recreational opportunities in the Adirondacks, but we don’t yet have the world-class drinking water and wastewater treatment systems we need to protect the environment and public health. This will help wildlife, communities, clean water and wilderness.”

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