Senate Committee Advances Water Package; $7.5 Billion Allocated for Wastewater
(May 13, 2020) – One of Congress’s priorities for 2020, prior to the pandemic, was to pass the biennial Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). Last week, as part of an effort to resume normal business, the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works unanimously passed its version of a 2020 WRDA package, comprised of two bills, America’s Water Infrastructure Act and the Drinking Water Infrastructure Act of 2020. The bills were advanced out of Committee on Wednesday, May 6th. The package was crafted on a bipartisan basis by the Committee and enjoys broad support.
The package incorporates several important program reauthorizations for the clean water sector. Most notably, it authorizes $7.5 billion over three years for EPA’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF). The CWSRF has been operating under an expired authorization and this bill authorizes the most significant increase in funding for the CWSRF in over a decade. Committee Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-DE) reminded the committee that this was the first reauthorization for the Clean Water SRF since 1987 and would grow the program to $3 billion annually over a three-year period.
The legislation also reauthorizes other EPA programs which are clean water sector priorities that were created for the first time two years ago, in WRDA 2018. Those include Sec. 221 Sewer Overflow/Stormwater Grants and Workforce Development grants, both of which are reauthorized in this legislation at increased funding levels.
Crucially, this legislation was developed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was not intended to be a COVID-19 relief package and does not address all of the clean water sector’s priorities. NACWA submitted comments on the draft legislation which underscore that this is a robust bipartisan effort but that it does not address COVID-19 impacts to the sector.
The next step for this 2020 WRDA package is consideration on the Senate Floor. Even in the best of circumstances, the timing of these large legislative packages reaching the Senate Floor is unpredictable. In these uncertain times, that trend is exacerbated. Meanwhile, the House is working to release its 2020 WRDA package, which could happen before Memorial Day.
NACWA looks forward to continuing engagement as the 2020 WRDA process evolves in the Senate and House. For more information, please contact Jason Isakovic or Kristina Surfus, NACWA’s legislative staff.