Washington, DC (February 4, 2016) – Today, Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), John Duncan (R-TN), and Richard Hanna (R-NY) introduced the Water Infrastructure Trust Fund Act – legislation that will provide a small, deficit-neutral, protected source of revenue to help states replace, repair, and rehabilitate critical clean and drinking water facilities by creating a voluntary labeling and contributory system to which businesses that rely on a clean water source could opt-in.
Our water infrastructure is falling behind due to declining federal funding. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave our nation’s wastewater and drinking water infrastructure a grade of “D” in their most recent report card. While our clean water needs are estimated to be nearly $15 billion a year, appropriations for clean water infrastructure have averaged less than over $2 billion a year since 2000. Drinking water infrastructure is in no better shape. The EPA estimates that we need to invest over $19 billion annually to ensure the provision of safe tap water, while Congress appropriates less than $1 billion.
As seen by the lead water crisis in Flint, MI, it is critical that we maintain and improve our water infrastructure. Water infrastructure problems, however, are not confined to tragedies such as these. Last year alone, American communities suffered more than 240,000 water main breaks and saw overflowing combined sewer systems – causing contamination, property damage, disruptions in the water supply, and massive traffic jams.
“Water infrastructure is a local issue – from a giant sinkhole in Gresham, OR, to poisoned water in Flint, MI. For too long, we’ve let critical water systems simply fall apart, just because it’s out of sight,” said Representative Blumenauer. “The Water Infrastructure Trust Fund Act will provide needed revenue for states and local governments to make overdue investments in wastewater and drinking water infrastructure and will also take a hard look at the systemic challenges affecting access to safe water in low-income populations. Congress must do more, not only to meet the huge need for water infrastructure investments, but also to understand why failing infrastructure hits the most vulnerable communities the hardest.”
“As recent events have shown us, clean water is a precious resource that we cannot take for granted. As co-chair of the Clean Water Caucus, I am proud to cosponsor this bill that will provide the needed funding to improve our Nation’s water infrastructure at no cost to the taxpayers,” said Representative Duncan. “Much of our water infrastructure is over 100 years old. If we do not start making wise investments now, it is going to cost much, much more in the future. This is a step in the right direction toward ensuring that our communities have access to clean water for many years to come.”
“Much of our water infrastructure has been neglected for decades, which poses great health risks not to mention potentially billions of dollars in liabilities,” Representative Hanna said. “We need to ensure that there is a long-term plan in place to address our water infrastructure – our pipes, drains, sewers – to repair our aging systems and make certain that we are upgrading our water systems in a responsible way. Water infrastructure in towns and villages across the country is in poor shape and crumbling. I proudly support this bill to make certain that we are fully funding this program and we can continue to solve so many of these critical issues.”
The Water Infrastructure Trust Fund Act allows businesses to choose to place a small label on their products indicating their commitment to protecting America’s clean water, contributing $0.03 to the Water Infrastructure Trust Fund for each unit bearing the label. The Trust Fund revenue will be distributed to the states as grants and loans through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) and the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) to help public water systems finance wastewater and drinking water infrastructure projects. The legislation also commissions an EPA study of the water affordability gap facing low-income populations and an analysis of solutions to systemic barriers affecting access to safe water systems.
“Water infrastructure remains the only major category of infrastructure without a dedicated revenue source. In cities and towns across the country, systems are aging, pipes are leaking, and populations continue to outstrip the systems capabilities,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, CEO of the Associated General Contractors of America and Co-Chair of the Water Infrastructure Network. “This Fund is a long overdue step in finally putting a dent in the many water infrastructure challenges this country faces.”
“Access to clean drinking water is fundamental for the health and well-being of America’s communities. Sadly, the residents of Flint, Michigan are experiencing the harmful effects of a water infrastructure system that has failed to deliver safe, potable water,” said Clarence E. Anthony, CEO and executive director of the National League of Cities. “America’s cities support the bipartisan legislation introduced by Congressmen Blumenauer, Duncan, and Hanna that establishes a clean water trust fund that will support water infrastructure projects critical to our economy, the environment and the health and welfare of our communities.”
“Maintaining water affordability is a challenge facing many utilities across the United States,” said Adam Krantz, CEO of National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA). “NACWA strongly supports the provision in this Act that would require the Environmental Protection Agency, with participation from the States, to conduct a study assessing the affordability gap faced by low-income populations in obtaining drinking water and wastewater treatment services and options for helping close this gap through a potential rate assistance program that helps incentivize full cost pricing…As the crisis in Flint demonstrates, there is a vital need for a renewed commitment to ensuring a strong local-state-federal partnership for investments in clean and safe water continues.”
“Our nation faces a water infrastructure funding crisis that is touching the lives of Americans in our largest cities and smallest villages. The bipartisan Clean Water Trust Fund legislation advanced by Congressman Blumenauer is a thoughtful approach to meeting America's water infrastructure challenges,” said the Water Infrastructure Network.
The Water Investment Trust Fund Act is supported by:
American Concrete Pressure Pipe Association, American Council of Engineering Companies, American Society of Civil Engineers, American Public Works Association, Associated Equipment Distributors, Associated General Contractors, Distribution Contractors Association, National Association of Clean Water Agencies, National League of Cities, and the Plastics Pipes Institute.