May 25, 2018 - On May 22nd, the Senate Environment & Public Works (EPW) Committee passed by unanimous vote S. 2800, America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018. The bipartisan bill, which includes the biennial Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) and a number of other important water infrastructure provisions that WEF has been advocating for, is expected to be on the Senate floor in June. On the other side of Capitol Hill, the House Transportation & Infrastructure (T&I) Committee passed H.R. 8, The Water Resources Development Act of 2018, which is strictly focused on authorizing U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects and policies. Differences between the two bills will need to be resolved in a conference committee once both bills pass their respective bodies in Congress.
America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 in the Senate includes multiple provisions that WEF requested or endorsed, which are:
- Reauthorization of WIFIA until 2021 at $50 million per year, which will be leverage into approximately $5 billion per year in water infrastructure funding;
- Codification of EPA guidance to allow Integrated Plans that allow for NPDES compliance, direction to the EPA to accept green infrastructure for stormwater management when applicable, creation of an Office of Municipal Ombudsman at the EPA to assist utilities in complying with federal environmental laws, and requirement for the EPA to update their guidance and expand the criteria for determining affordability and revise its guidance for affordability measures;
- Establishment of a multiagency federal task force to study and provide recommendations to Congress on solutions to fund stormwater infrastructure;
- Funding for drinking water source water protection, grants to disadvantaged and financially challenge communities for CSO infrastructure, and reauthorized the EPA’s WaterSense program to increase water efficiency;
- A new grant assistance program to support local agencies’ needs to address climate resiliency;
- Creation of a competitive grant program to help develop the next generation of water utility workers
- Reestablishment of a university-based water R&D program to support increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of new and existing water treatment works; and
- Reaffirming Congress’ commitment to robust funding for the Clean Water and Drinking Water Acts’ SRFs.
Additional provisions included in the bill that WEF did not support or took no position on include:
- Authorization of a new program for the state SRF programs to obtain WIFIA-like loans at low interest rates or below Treasury rates for smaller states;
- A set aside of funding from the Clean Water SRF for circuit riders to provide technical assistance to rural POTWs;
- Access to the SRF, WIFIA and USDA Rural Development funding for onsite wastewater recycling as one alternative for communities that cannot afford the up-front costs or maintenance costs of traditional wastewater infrastructure, and
- Imposing Buy American mandate for American Iron and Steel (AIS) a permanent element of the Drinking Water SRF.