Proposed Water Legislation Aims to Address Funding Needs

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As advocates of alternative water resources financing mechanisms and innovative, resilient infrastructure, ASCE is happy to support two recent pieces of legislation that provide creative solutions to our nation’s aging drinking water and wastewater infrastructure systems.  Last week, U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), and Diane Feinstein (D-CA) introduced S. 2364, the “Securing Required Funding for Water Infrastructure Now Act,” or the SRF WIN Act, to help tackle our nation’s aging drinking water and wastewater systems. A House companion bill, H.R. 4902, was introduced by Congressmen John Katko (R-NY) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR). Last fall, Congressmen Denny Heck (D-WA) and John Katko (R-NY) introduced H.R. 3906, the Innovative Stormwater Infrastructure Act of 2017.

Despite increased efficiency methods and sustainable practices, there is a growing gap between the capital needed to maintain drinking water and wastewater infrastructure and the actual investments made. In fact, ASCE’s 2017 Infrastructure Report Card gave our nation’s drinking water a grade of “D” and our nation’s wastewater, which includes stormwater, a grade of “D+.” By 2025, the disparity between needed and anticipated funding for drinking water and wastewater systems will be $105 billion if we continue on our current trajectory.

Well-maintained public drinking water and wastewater infrastructure systems are critical for public health, strong businesses, and clean waters and aquifers. However, funding capital projects and operations and maintenance (O&M) is difficult because the public often does not appreciate the modern convenience of drinking water and wastewater treatment, making it difficult to convey the need for rate increases. Furthermore, capital spending has not kept pace with needs, and if these trends continue, the funding gap will only widen, resulting in more leaking pipes, combined sewer overflows (CSOs), source water pollution, and escalating O&M costs.

The SRF WIN Act seeks to help states fund critically important drinking water and wastewater infrastructure projects by using a combination of the most successful aspects of both the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) and the State Revolving Funds (SRFs). This new program builds on the leveraging concept in WIFIA to provide a minimum of $50 billion in new funds for State Infrastructure Financing Authorities to utilize. It’s also worth noting that this program’s funding is contingent upon annual appropriations equal to Fiscal Year 2017 funding levels for the SRFs and WIFIA. ASCE supports this bill because it offers a new and efficient tool to leverage limited federal resources and stimulate additional investment in our nation’s infrastructure while safeguarding against any cuts to the existing SRF and WIFIA programs.

The Innovative Stormwater Infrastructure Act of 2017 establishes up to five nationwide centers of excellence, invests in community-based stormwater control projects, and promotes public-private partnerships in the design and construction of innovative stormwater control infrastructure. ASCE supports this bill’s efforts to promote the use of green stormwater infrastructure. Green infrastructure uses the natural environment to manage stormwater with practices such as permeable pavements, rain gardens, and rainwater harvesting systems; these green infrastructure systems provide co-benefits such as water quality improvement, aesthetic value to communities, and cost competitiveness with more gray forms of infrastructure.

It is crucial that sustained, significant, and strategic investments from all levels of government and the private sector are made so that we can repair and modernize our nation’s drinking water and wastewater infrastructure systems. ASCE believes our lawmakers must prioritize the investment needs of these critical infrastructure systems to ensure public health, a strong economy, and clean and safe water sources. ASCE has been busy advocating on Capitol Hill in support of these bills, and we urge you to contact your Member of Congress to ask them to co-sponsor these important drinking water and wastewater infrastructure pieces of legislation.

 

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