WEF and AWWA Talk Water on Capitol Hill
Posted April 15, 2011
By Scott Cummings
What an exciting time to be on Capitol Hill - with the cherry blossoms blooming and the government narrowly escaping the first shutdown in 15 years, there is a buzz here in Washington. With much of this buzz is focusing on budget issues, what better time to be discussing the significant return on investment that comes from funding for water infrastructure projects. This is one of the issues covered in the over 400 visits made to the offices of members of Congress over the last two days by the 160-plus attendees of the first WEF/AWWA joint Washington Fly-in Event - and note this event coincided with the New England Water Environment Association’s (NEWEA) Congressional Visit and Legislative Breakfast, which brought out over 60 members alone to the event. Other issues discussed with Congress members and staff included chemical security, improvement to the Clean Water Act, and alternative frameworks for water infrastructure financing.
Being a new-comer to this event, it was interesting to see how the mechanisms of legislation work and the importance of establishing relationships between the water quality professionals we represent and our congressional delegation. Our contingent from Alabama met a full range of Congressional staff – from senior Senators to junior staff on their first day of work! Thankfully, the assistance we received from WEF/AWWA staff prepared us when navigating these meetings regardless of who was on the other side of the table. We received background information on the topics we to cover with Congressional members and staff, received pertinent regulatory updates concerning Safe Drinking and Clean Water issues, and even saw a short play starring the executive directors for both organizations illustrating how the office visits were to be conducted.
The event ran smoothly, especially considering it was the maiden voyage as a joint WEF/AWWA event. I expect that the event will not only continue long into the future, but will also grow to become the event that Congress members and staff look to for information and input on policy and legislative issues affecting the water sector.