08/16/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Urban and Rural, Red and Blue: Time to Rebuild America's Water Infrastructure

Two of my staffers were out for a run yesterday and came across a water main break in the middle of one of DC's busiest streets: the intersection of 23rd and I, right in front of GW Hospital and the Foggy Bottom metro. This brought traffic to a halt and hindered access to the Hospital. This reminded me of an incident just this May when a water main broke in Seattle.

These are just two very public examples of water and sewer pipe failures that occur across America, with EPA estimating that about 240,000 breaks occur every year.

As President Obama has said, this isn't about red states vs. blue states. Nor is it about rural vs. urban. Republicans and Democrats support fixing our water and sewer pipes, as do environmentalists, engineers, contractors, industry, and rural community advocates.

Every community is faced with serious drinking water and sanitation problems that lead to dangerous public health problems and serious environmental damage. With support from a wide range of interest groups and colleagues from both sides of the aisle -- Steve LaTourette (R-OH), Norm Dicks (D-WA), Mike Simpson (R-ID), and Tom Petri (R-WI) -- I introduced the "Water Protection and Reinvestment Act", which will renew and rebuild America's outdated water systems. The annual fund would also create upwards of 270,000 jobs a year.

Over the next twenty years, we will need more than $500 billion to rebuild our corroded pipes and outdated sewage treatment systems. In a typical year, we require about $25 billion for water and sewage repairs, yet Congress only provides about $2 billion. In my state of Oregon, based on current funding levels, it would take more than 62 years just to meet our current wastewater needs (this doesn't include drinking water).

Following the introduction of the water trust fund bill, I testified before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on this important topic. The Committee was engaged, and people understand this is not a problem we can ignore. In fact, they indicated that the hearing would be just one in a series.

A Water Trust Fund -- financed broadly by fees on things like bottled beverages, products disposed of in wastewater, corporate profits and the pharmaceutical industry -- would provide the long-term, sustainable source of revenue we need to rebuild our water systems and protect the health of people and the environment. Tell the Daily Green what you think about this!

With politicians in Washington looking for opportunities to give our economy a boost, the Water Trust Fund is a great way to not only create jobs, protect people from contaminated water, and build a strong infrastructure for the 21st century.