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NACWA Letter to Congress Urges Greater Federal Investment, Grants for Water in Infrastructure Package

August 5, 2021

Early this week the bipartisan group of 22 Senators who have been negotiating with President Biden and the White House on a bipartisan infrastructure bill released legislative text and quickly began to advance it through the Senate with the support of leadership.

The release of the bill text marks a significant turning point in this year’s federal infrastructure investment debate, moving beyond framework proposals. As Senators and the public reviewed the legislation – more than 2,500 pages encompassing $550 billion in new spending – hundreds of amendments to improve the bill were quickly filed. NACWA has been coordinating with municipal government and water sector groups to advocate for a bipartisan amendment to increase the grant share of the water spending portion of the package.

In line with NACWA’s main ask for infrastructure investment, the Senate bill incorporates direct spending through appropriations as well as important authorizations. The package would provide $11.7B each over 5 years for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) and the same amount for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) for a total of $23.5B in new spending, of which about half would need to be in the form of grants or 100% principal forgiveness. These funds would be on top of annual Fiscal Year spending bills passed each year that could further fund the SRFs.

The Senate Infrastructure bill would flow additional funds through the SRFs for specific uses: $1.0B through the CWSRF and $4.0B through the DWSRF to address emerging contaminants such as PFAS and $15B through the DWSRF to address lead in drinking water. The bill also appropriates funds for small and disadvantaged drinking water systems and EPA’s geographic programs around the country.

The bipartisan bill would also authorize EPA to conduct a study of low-income water assistance needs around the country and stand up a pilot program of EPA federal assistance for low-income households; authorize a clean water resiliency program; reauthorize the Sewer Overflow and Stormwater Reuse Grants program at higher funding levels; reauthorize the CWSRF at higher funding and additional subsidization levels for future years; and more – all of which have been important asks for the public clean water sector. However, the bill also includes some concerning provisions, notably extending Buy America to manufactured goods. NACWA joined other organizations in a joint letter expressing concerns with this provision earlier this week.

In sum, the Senate package is a significant step forward in terms of providing direct new spending and authorizations for clean water. At the same time, the bill would spend only about half of what was initially proposed by the Biden Administration for infrastructure investment overall as well as for water specifically.

Maintaining bipartisan support has been a major achievement for the Administration and Senators to this point. The bill, however, now moves to the House as it considers its next steps, inclduing whether to consider the bill “as is”, dramatically scale up funding, or simply turn to drafting their own priorities through the Budget process. The House  will face considerable pressure to hew more closely to the Administration’s and House-proposed spending levels.

We anticipate the infrastructure investment negotiations to continue into the fall, and NACWA will remain very closely engaged with Congress as bills advance. Contact Kristina Surfus, NACWA Managing Director of Government Affairs, or Jason Isakovic, NACWA Legislative Director with any questions.

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