Water infrastructure needs gain congressional attention

Heather McTavish
Government Relations Associate
APWA Washington Office

For the past four years, APWA has been involved with the Water Infrastructure Network (WIN), a broad-based coalition of local elected officials, drinking water and wastewater service providers, state environmental and health administrators, engineers, and environmentalists dedicated to preserving and protecting the health, environmental and economic gains that America's drinking water and wastewater infrastructure provides. WIN is seeking financial support from the federal government to assist municipalities in addressing their deteriorating water infrastructure.

Though a long-term solution to the nation's water infrastructure problem is needed, a more immediate solution is to pump additional dollars into the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund (CWSRF) and the Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund (DWSRF), the primary mechanism for federal assistance with local drinking water and wastewater infrastructure. Increasing these levels helps provide the necessary resources to begin closing the funding gap cited by WIN, Congressional Budget Office and the Environmental Protection Agency. While numbers vary, most agree the funding gap between current funding and current needs lies between $76 billion and $1 trillion.

WIN has taken its message to the Hill and lawmakers have responded, citing the needs of their own communities. Several members have introduced legislation mirroring previous legislation to increase SRF funding levels. Following are bills that APWA is monitoring:

S. 170 − Clean Water Infrastructure Financing Act of 2003
Sen. Voinovich (R-OH) re-introduced legislation he introduced in the last Congress. S. 170 authorizes $15 billion over five years to the State Revolving Loan Funds. The bill provides technical assistance to small communities with less than 20,000 in population. The legislation also provides a grant program to disadvantaged communities that are unable to pay back their loans.

H.R. 20 − Clean Water Infrastructure Financing Act of 2003
Rep. Kelly (R-NY) and Rep. Tauscher (D-CA) introduced legislation identical to S. 170, and to legislation the pair introduced last year. The bill provides $3 billion over five years to the State Revolving Loan Funds. The legislation would provide grants to financially distressed communities to pay 25 percent of the cost of projects on states' priority lists that exceed $1.4 billion. The bill includes Davis-Bacon provisions, requiring locally prevailing wages be paid on projects that receive federal funding. Similar legislation passed the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in March 2002, but did not move to the House floor because of opposition to Davis-Bacon provisions.

Water Quality Financing Act of 2003
Rep. Duncan (R-TN) is set to introduce legislation increasing the funding for the Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund by $1 billion per year, until it reaches $6 billion in 2006. The bill also requires states to use water quality benefits as the primary criteria for determining which projects should receive funding and ensure that at least 15 percent of the federal contribution to the state’s SRF go to communities of less than 20,000.

For additional information on these bills and other legislation APWA is monitoring, log onto APWA's Legislative Action Center: http://capwiz.com/apwa/issues/bills/. Log onto www.win-water.org for information about the Water Infrastructure Network.

Heather McTavish can be reached at (202) 408-9541 or at hmctavish@apwa.net.