Urge Congress This Week to Invest in Water

Sep 8, 2021

As we head into the fall, the debate over investing in infrastructure continues to advance in the U.S. Congress. Majority leadership in both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate are working feverishly to draft “Reconciliation” packages that could be advanced alongside the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment And Jobs Act, which passed the Senate last month and is scheduled for a House vote by Sept. 27th.

As previously reported, the Infrastructure Investment And Jobs Act includes significant direct investment in clean water infrastructure and valuable reauthorizations. The Reconciliation package provides an opportunity to build on that investment in clean water. Congress’ focus for Reconciliation is on programs and priorities that were not already funded through the Infrastructure Investment And Jobs Act.

For clean water, this can include funding for the Clean Water Act Sec. 221 Sewer Overflow and Stormwater Reuse grants, which would grow this program and provide grants to municipal utilities for sewer and stormwater investment, and funding for low-income water and wastewater customer assistance, which would build upon the first-ever funding provided for water customers as part of last year’s COVID-19 relief.

NACWA staff has been working closely with Congress as negotiations advance and are pleased with the attention being paid to additional investments in water. However, continued advocacy – including the voices from individual utilities – is key as we move into the home stretch of drafting and marking up bills. We encourage interested utilities to consider the following:

  • Email your Congressional delegation THIS WEEK with your support for these priorities. While NACWA works on a bipartisan basis, this current effort is being led by Democrats so it will be most effective to focus on Democratic Members of Congress that represent your service area. If you need email addresses for your Members, just reach out to Jason Isakovic with NACWA for help.

  • In your email, feel free to copy/paste the short summaries below.

The ask is for [XXX Democratic Member of Congress] to support funding through the Reconciliation process for these priorities, which were not funded as part of the bipartisan deal. Congressional offices may want to reach out to Congressional leadership and the relevant Committees to weigh in with their support.

Funding Summaries to Copy/Paste: (include the provided list of Committees so your Members of Congress will know who to weigh in with):

Invest in the Clean Water Act Sec. 221 Sewer Overflow and Stormwater Reuse Municipal Grants

Sec. 221 is the main grant program EPA has available to help communities invest in sewer overflow control and stormwater management. The program was authorized under the America’s Water Infrastructure Act (AWIA) (P.L.115-270) and funded for the first time in Fiscal Year 2020. These funds provide grants to municipal entities for critical investments to help communities manage stormwater flows, wet weather events, and water reuse and as such will support utility resilience and climate adaptation. The Bipartisan Senate-passed bill reauthorized but did not appropriate funding for this program, making it a key candidate for further clean water investment through Reconciliation. We also strongly support funding for other utility resilience investments authorized under the Clean Water Act. 

Committees: House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Water Resources Subcommittee; Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Support Low-Income Water Customer Assistance

We strongly urge Congress to include funding in the Reconciliation package to help low-income water and wastewater ratepayers maintain affordable water services. Clean water agencies are grateful that Congress helped address the challenges households face in paying for critical water service with the first-ever federal funding through last year’s COVID-19 relief legislation. Programs for assisting low-income households with paying for other essential services – like energy, food, and phone/internet – are well-established, but similar assistance had not existed before for water bills. A reliable program would provide greater water security for struggling households, while also helping water systems make critical investments to protect public health and the environment. 

Committees: House Energy & Commerce Committee; Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Contact NACWA’s legislative team, Kristina Surfus and Jason Isakovic to discuss further anytime or with any questions about reaching out to your Congressional delegation. Thanks in advance for considering this important and timely outreach this week!

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