How Trump’s Budget Could Affect Your Drinking Water

Three EPA programs vital to drinking water safety would be slashed under Trump’s proposed budget

By Jennifer Lu

At least three programs that ensure the safety of the nation’s drinking water would be dramatically affected if the Trump administration succeeds in persuading Congress to cut the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency by almost a third, as recommended in the 2018 budget it released on Tuesday.

The 31.4 percent budget reduction would eliminate the agency’s regional conservation and restoration projects, including in the Great Lakes, which supply drinking water to 30 million people.

It would also cut the EPA’s categorical grants—federal money distributed to states to help them protect their soil, air and water—by 44 percent, to $597 million. Funding for the Office of Research and Development (ORD), which provides the science that shapes water and other environmental regulations, would shrink by 48 percent, to $249 million.

Left untouched in the proposed budget are the EPA’s Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds, which provide loans that water systems can use to upgrade their infrastructure.

“Drinking water in this country is extremely vulnerable,” said Thomas Burke, who directed ORD during the last two years of the Obama administration and was the agency’s science adviser. “The nation is very dependent on EPA. Drinking water is a kind of thing where, if people want to trust the water when they turn on the tap, there needs to be a partnership between the EPA, states and local communities.” Read more

Under the Trump administration's budget released on May 23, at least three programs that ensure the safety of the nation's drinking water could be dramatically affected. The 2018 budget recommends cutting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency by almost a third, a proposal that could weaken the nation's drinking water protections. Photos by Yin Bogu/Xinhua/Alamy Live News (top) and Sergio Azenha/Alamy Stock Photo

Why Water, Why Now?

Jennifer Lu's report on the Trump administration 2018 budget proposal to slash three EPA programs vital to drinking water safety is one of the first articles in InquireFirst’s debut project, which in the coming months will explore a question that directly affects every American’s life: Will the United States continue to be a country where people can turn on the tap and assume the water that comes out is safe and affordable? Or do we face a future of ruptured water mains, boil water alerts and lead contamination scares?

The nation’s pipes and treatment plants have been neglected so long that one estimate puts the repair bill at $1 trillion over the next 20 years. Meanwhile, federal funding for water infrastructure has shrunk 74 percent in real dollars since 1977, leaving cities and towns with skyrocketing bills.

How can we repair and upgrade our deteriorating pipes and treatment plants without making water unaffordable to some? How can we make sure our water remains safe to drink, given the Trump Administration’s promise to cut back on regulations and shrink the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency?

Our stories will help you answer these questions and give you the information you need to take action. Please share them with your friends, family and social media connections. And please consider funding our work with your tax-deductible donations.

Executive Director Lynne Walker meets with reporters and editors on journalist safety in Ciudad Juarez

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico — InquireFirst Executive Director Lynne Walker met with reporters and editors in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, on May 15-16, 2017, to instruct a two-day workshop on investigative journalism and journalist safety.

In Ciudad Juarez, more than 30 investigative reporters and editors from the city’s leading print, radio and television outlets participated in six hours of interactive training led by Walker.

During the first session of the workshop organized by the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juarez, Walker shared techniques for gaining access and finding sources. The second and final day of the workshop, Walker led a training exercise on interview techniques and organizing and writing an investigative story.

A key focus of the workshop was journalist safety. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Mexico is one of the deadliest countries in the world for journalists. On the list of the world’s deadliest places to be a reporter, Mexico falls between the war-torn nation of Afghanistan and the failed state of Somalia. Last year, 11 Mexican journalists were killed, the country’s highest tally this century, the New York Times reported.

March was the worst month on record for Mexico, according to Article 19, a group that tracks crimes against journalists worldwide. At least seven journalists were shot across the country in March — outside their front doors, relaxing in a hammock, leaving a restaurant, out reporting a story, according to the Times.

On May 15, Javier Valdez, an award-winning reporter whose coverage focused on drug trafficking and organized crime, was shot to death in the northern state of Sinaloa outside the offices of the publication he co-founded, Rio Doce.

During a private breakfast with news directors from El Diario, the leading newspaper in Ciudad Juarez, Radiorama and Net Multimedia, Walker listened as they desctibed the challenges faced by news organizations in the border city. During the discussion, the news directors agreed to begin convening regular meetings to strengthen journalism in Ciudad Juarez.

In the newsroom of El Diario, Walker met with Editorial Director Rocio Gallegos to talk about ways that investigative journalism organizations such as El Diario and InquireFirst can work together on cross-border stories.

The Investigative Journalism & Journalist Safety workshop resulted in two important takeaways for editors and reporters. First, they agreed to talk with top directors at their news organizations about implementing safety protocols. Second, they discussed inviting an international organization such as Article 19 to Ciudad Juarez to provide training sessions on protocols and journalist safety.

The workshop also served to encourage reporters and editors to keep striving for excellence in their reporting. Journalist Gustavo Cabullo described the workshop as demonstrating “the art of weaving a good story.” In a Facebook post during Walker’s workshop, Cabullo wrote, “today she reminds us of the excitement of a good story, of producing excellent journalism.”

The Ciudad Juarez workshop is the first in a series of professional training workshops that Walker will lead this year in Latin America. In June, Walker spent two weeks working with journalists in Honduras and Guatemala on investigative reporting techniques during sessions organized by the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. embassies in the countries. In October, she will organize and direct the 2017 Latin American Edition of the Jack F. Ealy Science Journalism workshop in San Francisco, Calif. And in November, Walker will travel to Bolivia to work with journalists in La Paz.



2017 Symposiums

InquireFirst Executive Director S. Lynne Walker will organize and instruct journalism symposiums in 2017 on investigative reporting and safety protocols, digital reporting and science, health and environment coverage in Mexico, Central America, South America and the Caribbean. The symposiums will be presented in Spanish.

imageBROKER/Alamy Stock Photo

June 12-16, 2017
Quetzaltenango and Guatemala City
Tools & Techniques for Investigative Reporting

In Guatemala City, journalists will attend a two-day Tools & Techniques workshop led by Walker, who will also travel to Quetzaltenango to meet with journalists there. The program will focus on developing investigative news stories, techniques for finding and interviewing sources, writing investigative reports and the ethics of investigative journalism.

Xinhua/Alamy Stock Photo

June 19-23, 2017
San Pedro Sula and Comayagua, Honduras
Engaging Audiences with In-Depth Reporting

In San Pedro Sula, Walker will lead two workshops on accurate sourcing and producing thorough, balanced investigative journalism that results in greater transparency and good governance. Walker will also conduct intensive reporting workshops in the colonial city of Comayagua.

October 25-30, 2017
San Francisco, California
Bridging Science and Societies

InquireFirst and Mexico City-based Fundacion Ealy Ortiz will bring together 50 science journalists for a October 25 professional development workshop to present practical, hands-on training sessions to sharpen reporting skills on the most pressing science, health and environmental issues in the Western Hemisphere.

The 2017 Latin American Edition of the Jack F. Ealy Science Journalism Workshop workshop is designed to promote excellence in science, health and environmental coverage in Latin America and the Caribbean and to underscore the need for deeply reported science coverage by local and regional media organizations.

This year’s workshop is being organized as part of the World Conference of Science Journalists 2017 (WCSJ) in San Francisco, California. Journalists attending the workshop will also participate in the WCSJ, which will host 1,200 reporters and editors from 70 countries.