Parts of Washington, D.C. are served by a combined system carrying both storm water and sewage. Some of the pipes in this system date back to the Civil War. A large rainstorm can overwhelm the system, allowing sewage to flow into area waterways leading into the Chesapeake Bay.All the beneficiaries? Hmm, I sense some
To correct this situation, D.C. Water has embarked on the Clean Rivers Project, a federally-mandated $2.6 billion, 20-year project to build huge underground tunnels to store overflow storm water and sewage during rainstorms until it can be treated. A new Brookings paper examines the project and concludes that despite D.C. Water’s smart management, we need a better financing system to ensure its success and spread the cost fairly and efficiently among all the beneficiaries.
...But these other downstream areas have their own pollution problems to address; we've already seen how the counties surrounding and downstream of Washington D.C. are facing their own huge bills for the Bay clean up. Why should the districts costs be ameliorated by cost sharing?
Some would say, this is the District's problem; let them pay to solve it. That approach ignores the fact that water doesn’t recognize political boundaries. Cleaner water flowing from the District means downstream jurisdictions have fewer pollution problems, and it helps improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay, a national priority. The District is home to about 11 percent of the region's population, but the benefits of cleaner water for drinking and recreation from here all the way to the Bay are enjoyed by millions.