FY18 Omnibus Provides Significant Funding Increase for Clean Water Programs

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(March 27, 2018) - A bipartisan Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) Omnibus legislative package was signed into law last week that provides significant increases for clean water infrastructure and related programs and funds the Federal Government for the remainder of the fiscal year through September 30.  The increased water infrastructure appropriations reflect the levels of funding that NACWA and other water sector partners have been advocating for some time to meet the growing challenges and demands being placed upon public clean water agencies.

The Omnibus legislation provides for increased levels of federal funding for water infrastructure not seen in several years.  Specifically, the legislation appropriates $2.9 billion in total for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) and the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF), providing an additional $300 million for each SRF over current funding levels for a total of $600 million in additional funding for the SRF program as a whole. The CWSRF would receive $1.693 billion in FY18, an increase of more than 21 percent compared to last year. The proposed budget additionally includes $63 million for the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program, also a major increase over current funding and well above the $45 million authorized level for FY18.  Significant increases are also provided for the Bureau of Reclamation’s Water Reclamation and Reuse Program for a total of $54.4 million for FY18.

Increases in federal funding are also include for rural water infrastructure.  The legislation includes $560.2 million for USDA’s Rural Utilities Service Water and Waste Disposal Program Account for FY18, as well as an additional $500 million for direct rural water and waste disposal loans and grants to remain available until expended. 

Additionally, the legislation maintains current funding levels for several of EPA’s geographical programs for FY18, including its two largest, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative at $300 million, and the Chesapeake Bay Program at $73 million.  The Long Island Sound and Gulf of Mexico programs each receive $4 million in funding increases for FY18 over currently enacted levels. 

EPA’s overall FY18 budget under the legislation is increased by $763 million. The EPA’s base budget is maintained at its FY17 level of $8.1 billion and the overwhelming majority of the $763 million increase is allocated for water infrastructure investment.  This means the increase in infrastructure dollars will not come at the expense of EPA’s core programs.

In an interesting policy development, the Omnibus bill also includes language acknowledging recent federal litigation finding Clean Water Act (CWA) liability “based on a theory of hydrological connection between groundwater and surface water.”  The bill encourages EPA to pursue a rulemaking addressing this issue and establishing that “releases of pollutants through groundwater are not subject to regulation as point sources under the CWA.”  This is an issue of great interest to NACWA that the Association will be tracking very closely. 

The federal funding increases in the Omnibus package are a major advocacy victory for the water sector and communities across the country.  As Congress now begins working on the FY19 appropriations process, continued advocacy will be imperative to make sure the important groundwork laid in the FY18 Omnibus continued momentum moving forward. Please contact Jason Isakovic or Kristina Surfus, NACWA’s Legislative Directors, to discuss further.