Presidential Candidates Spotlight Water in First-Ever Infrastructure Forum

(February 19, 2020) – Four of the 2020 Presidential Candidates – Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Amy Klobuchar, Tom Steyer and Mayor Pete Buttigieg – convened February 16 at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas for the first-ever Presidential Candidate Infrastructure Forum. The event, Moving America Forward, was hosted by 12 labor unions and trade groups, including the Value of Water Campaign, of which NACWA and numerous NACWA individual member agencies and affiliates are supporting organizations.  

The forum provided an outstanding opportunity to elevate water issues within the 2020 campaign cycle, and the water sector attendees formed a visible contingent among the crowd. The forum helped demonstrate that water issues should be front and center alongside other infrastructure sectors. 

Each candidate appeared in succession to discuss their plans for investing in the nation’s infrastructure and to respond to submitted questions.  

For the clean water sector, the most substantive discussion came from Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who kicked off his remarks by saying he was “so excited to finally be around people who care about wastewater as much as I do” – garnering enthusiastic applause from the water sector attendees. When asked a question regarding his experience as Mayor utilizing integrated planning to seek greater flexibility for clean water compliance – a NACWA priority – Mayor Buttigieg explained how his community in South Bend, Indiana – A NACWA member -maintained its commitment to environmental quality and was seeking to be “outcome-focused rather than input-oriented.” Mayor Buttigieg also discussed water affordability challenges, and the need for a strong federal funding partnership. 

Vice President Joe Biden kicked off the Forum by addressing the overarching theme of the need to balance maintaining existing, aging infrastructure systems with the need to incorporate sustainability when building new infrastructure to meet tomorrow’s challenges.  

Tom Steyer, when asked about addressing water scarcity issues in the west, promoted his vision: that the country can address these challenges through advanced water technologies – many of which exist and can be better deployed.  

Senator Klobuchar emphasized that water is a growing issue that has not received adequate federal focus – something she says would change with her Administration.  

The forum – moderated by the Wall Street Journal and aired live on C-Span – can be viewed in full online and comes as Nevada caucus voters head to the polls February 22nd. To discuss, contact Kristina Surfus, NACWA’s Managing Director of Government Affairs.