On Sunday, August 8, by a vote of 68 to 29, the U.S. Senate cleared a final procedural hurdle to pass the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act (H.R. 3684), which will provide nearly $1.2 trillion in funding for the nation’s infrastructure. Approximately, $550 billion of the total is new funding to be spent over the next five years. Sunday’s vote sets in motion the final vote to pass the bill late Monday night or Tuesday morning.
The bill includes almost $55 billion in water infrastructure funding and several policy provisions that will benefit the nation’s water infrastructure. The water infrastructure section in the Senate package is fairly similar to what was passed by the Senate in April in the Drinking Water & Wastewater Infrastructure Act (S. 914), which WEF supported.
Below is a list of the key water provisions in the infrastructure package. * = WEF supported provision
- Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) and Drinking Water SRF each receive $11.7 billion over five years ($2.4B/FY22; $2.7B; $3.0B; $3.2B; $3.2B)*
- $1 billion will be provided in grants through the Clean Water SRF to address emerging contaminants.*
- $4 billion will be provided in grants through the Drinking Water SRF to address PFAS in drinking water.
- $15 billion in loans and grants will be provided through the Drinking Water SRF for lead service line replacement.
- The Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) will receive $250 million over the next five years and facilities applying will be required to have only one ratings agency opinion letter (instead of two).*
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Sewer Overflow & Stormwater Reuse Municipal Grant Program will receive $1.4 billion over the next five years. Not less than 25% of the fund will to go to rural and financially disadvantaged communities.*
- The Alternative Source Water Pilot Program will get $125 million over the next five years.*
- The Rural and Low-Income Water Assistance Pilot Program will establish a new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency program to provide 40 grants per year to utilities to assist low-income ratepayers.*
- The Wastewater Energy Efficiency Grant Pilot Program will get $100 million over the next five years.*
- The Clean Water Infrastructure Resiliency and Sustainability Grant Program will get $125 million over the next five years.*
- The Small Publicly Owned Treatment Works Efficiency Grant Program will be established with funding levels to be determined.*
- The connection of homes and communities to Publicly Owned Treatment Works Grant Program will get $200 million over the next five years.*
- The Water Infrastructure and Workforce Investment Grant Program will get $25 million over the next five years. *
- The Stormwater Infrastructure Technology Program will get $25 million to create five Stormwater Centers of Excellence and $50 million for stormwater infrastructure planning/development and implementation grants.*
- Buy America requirements will expand in SRF and WIFIA to include “manufactured goods,” in addition to the existing iron and steel Buy America requirements. (WEF sent letter of opposition.)
After the Senate passes the bill, it is unclear how the package will proceed. President Joe Biden has indicated that he might be willing to sign it without it being negotiated with the House-passed INVEST Act.
WEF previously sent letters to the House and Senate in support of both bills. House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chair Peter Defazio (D-Ore.) has expressed a desire for a conference committee to reconcile the differences between the Senate bill and the INVEST Act, which calls for nearly double the amount of funding for water infrastructure. Speaker Pelosi will need to decide if she wants to delay the process for several months by calling for a conference committee or to move forward to get the infrastructure package done.
Updated, August 10, 2021
On Tuesday, August 10, the U.S. Senate voted 69 to 30 to pass this bill.