Legislation Introduced to Increase Water Infrastructure Funding, Address Extreme Weather
(May 1, 2018) – Several pieces of legislation were introduced in the House of Representatives last week that would provide increased funding for communities to invest in their aging water and wastewater systems, as well as deal with the effects of extreme weather.
The first piece of legislation, H.R. 5609, the Water Affordability, Transparency, Equity and Reliability (WATER) Act of 2018, was introduced by Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN). The legislation would help communities better address their affordability challenges by authorizing $35 billion a year to improve drinking water and wastewater services in states nationwide. Funding would be provided by the EPA and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) through grants established under a new trust fund. Similar legislation has been introduced in the past and not advanced due to its prohibitive cost and failure to attract bipartisan support. The new bill is likely to face similar challenges, but is yet another positive sign that water infrastructure continues to receive strong attention in Congress.
The second piece of legislation introduced is H.R. 5596, the Water Infrastructure Resiliency and Sustainability Act of 2018, by Congressmen Salud Carbajal (D-CA) and Tom Reed (R-NY). Similar legislation has been introduced in prior Congresses by Democrats, but for the first time this year, the bill has secured bipartisan sponsorship.
NACWA and several of its water sector partners are strong supporters, and have written publicly in support of the bill. The bill aims to address a critical need by helping communities across the country ensure their drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure can withstand the variety of threats posed by changing hydrologic conditions and extreme weather. Specifically, the bill establishes a competitive grant program through EPA to provide utilities the resources needed to undertake projects that rebuild or relocate threatened water infrastructure, conserve water or increase efficiency in its use, preserve or improve water quality, and implement advanced treatment technologies such as water-reuse and recycling.
Also last week, bipartisan legislation to improve government preparedness for extreme weather incidents passed in the House of Representatives. Introduced by Congressman Matt Cartwright (D-PA), H.R. 4177, the PREPARE Act of 2017, authorizes an interagency council whose purpose is to provide recommendations on the best means of planning and preparing for extreme weather incidents. It would also provide state and local stakeholders with the best information available and best practices to help them formulate emergency preparation plans tailored to their local needs.
NACWA appreciates Congressional leadership on all of these bills, which underscore the Water Week 2018 message that clean water issues are a national priority.