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Clean Water Current

Historic Infrastructure Legislation Signed into Law; Focus Shifts to Implementation

November 17, 2021

President Joe Biden signed into law the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) on Nov. 15 in front of a bipartisan group of lawmakers. The $1.2 trillion package provides the largest federal clean water federal investments in decades for communities to update aging infrastructure, as well as helps address growing climate, water quality, and affordability challenges.

NACWA sent all members an Advocacy Alert on Monday with details of what was included for clean water in the IIJA and what utilities can expect moving forward.

In short, the legislation includes clean water as a core component, with 10% of new spending in the bill - $55 billion of $550 billion total – going toward water, including direct investment in the form of grants.

Passage of the IIJA is a major and historic achievement for the public water sector and demonstrates the value and importance of the ongoing advocacy NACWA and its members are tirelessly doing to ensure Congress understands the needs of their communities in providing safe, reliable, and more affordable clean water services. NACWA and its members played a critical role in securing the clean water components in the bill. 

Effective implementation of the bill will be critical. Shortly after signing the bill into law, President Biden signed an Executive Order that established the Infrastructure Implementation Task Force comprised of Cabinet level and other key Executive branch officials. That Task Force will play an important role in overseeing distribution of the funds and promoting coordination between federal partners, states, and local governments.

It will likely still be a number of months before the actual infrastructure money in the package flows from the federal government to the states (especially the water funding through the State Revolving Funds) and then to utilities. NACWA is meeting with EPA later this week to begin discussing that process and how the Association can assist EPA in getting the money out quickly but efficiently, with a focus on ensuring the funds are made as widely available to clean water utilities as possible.  The NACWA Board of Directors will also have a task force working with Association staff to help oversee implementation of the funds and determine how NACWA members can best access them. 

For Congress, its work now continues with the Build Back Better Reconciliation package. This next step is part of the agreement House Leadership reached between moderate Democrats and progressives to pass the IIJA. The draft package under consideration in the House includes several NACWA priorities: grant dollars for municipal sewer overflow controls and stormwater management, funds to EPA to stand up a permanent federal low-income water assistance program, and substantial investments in resilience and adaptation.

A key component of the Build Back Better agreement was that the House would have an opportunity to review cost estimates of the legislation produced by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) prior to voting. So far, CBO has released portions of its estimates beginning last week and final estimates are expected to be issued in their entirety on Friday, November 19th.

Moderate House Democrats have committed to voting for the package once the information is received and aligns with earlier White House estimates – meaning a final vote in the House could happen as early as this Friday.

If and once the House passes the legislation, its path in the Senate is less clear as the chamber’s moderate Democrats have not all committed to supporting the bill yet. 

NACWA will keep members apprised as work continues behind the scenes in Washington on advancing the Build Back Better Act with full Democrat support through both the House and Senate. In the meantime, NACWA urges all members to continue advocating clean water to be prioritized as part of any final bill.

NACWA thanks all of its members for your continued dedication to clean water advocacy. Without your efforts, none of the increased funding growth and federal attention to clean water over the past year would have been possible. Please contact Kristina Surfus or Jason Isakovic on NACWA’s legislative team to discuss further or with any questions. 

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