Achieving 24-hour water supply on Saipan


Now that 96 percent of Saipan’s population has access to 24-hour water and the work of the Water Task Force has been handed over to the Commonwealth Utilities Corp., I would like to add my congratulations and thanks to everyone responsible. I join the acting governor in his praise of Mr. Pete Sasamoto and his Water Task Force colleagues for a job well done.

Additionally, I want to acknowledge the partnership of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which has been a guiding hand throughout this process. I understand that Saipan was the only major population area in the U.S. without 24-hour water; and Regional Administrator Jared Blumenfeld, Pacific Islands Program Manager John McCarroll, and the staff at EPA’s Region IX office in San Francisco partnered with the congressional office and we made it our mission to fix that.

Achieving 24-hour water would not have been possible without a substantial increase in funding beginning in 2009. As EPA reported in its review of Consolidated Grants program accomplishments for Fiscal Year 2014, “the achievement of having the public water supply system provide 24 hour service to 95 percent of its population… [is] a result of the increase in [State Revolving Fund] funding ….”

Before 2009 the Commonwealth was getting about $1 million annually from the Safe Drinking Water Act and Clean Water Act State Revolving Fund grants that Congress provides. Beginning with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009 and in every fiscal year from 2010 to today, annual funding has always exceeded $6 million—a 619 percent increase over pre-2009 levels and a seven-year total of $51.6 million.

I made this increase a priority when I came to office in 2009 and have worked to keep the change in place in every annual appropriation since then. In fact, in the fiscal 2016 appropriation that we expect to see enacted this week there should be an additional $6.5 million, bringing the eight-year total for the Northern Marianas to $58.1 million.

Without this increased funding from Congress, most households on Saipan would still lack 24-hour water. Or CUC ratepayers would have had to cover those millions of dollars in infrastructure upgrades in their water and sewer bills—an additional $40 per month for the average customer.

There are a lot of numbers in this letter, so I have included a graph to show how much funding has improved since 2009.

Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan is the delegate of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands to the U.S. Congress.

By GREGORIO KILILI C. SABLAN, Special to the Saipan Tribune

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