U.S. Senate Passes Water Infrastructure Package

Inside WashingtonOn Thursday, April 29, the U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan package of wastewater, stormwater, drinking water, and water reuse infrastructure funding by a vote of 89 – 2.

The bill, known as the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act of 2021, S. 914, seeks to reauthorize many core federal water infrastructure funding programs. The bill also includes several new programs that will help communities address pressing water infrastructure challenges. The Water Environment Federation (WEF) supports the legislation and provided a letter of support for the bill.

The Senate bill both reauthorizes and amends many existing programs and creates new ones. WEF’s members, Member Associations, and WEF have been advocating for many of these programs over the last several years.

According to the bill, the reauthorizations and changes include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • The Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) would get $14.65 billion over the next five years and allow a greater percentage of loans to be forgiven or other favorable loan terms.
  • The Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act would get $250 million over the next five years and require only one ratings agency opinion letter instead of two.
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Sewer Overflow & Stormwater Reuse Municipal Grant Program would get $1.4 billion over the next five years.
  • The Alternative Source Water Pilot Program would get $125 million over the next five years.

The bill also lays out details for several new programs that WEF has been advocating for:

  • The Rural and Low-Income Water Assistance Pilot Program would establish a new EPA program to provide 40 grants per year to utilities to assist low-income ratepayers.
  • The Wastewater Energy Efficiency Grant Pilot Program would get $100 million over the next five years.
  • The Clean Water Infrastructure Resiliency and Sustainability Grant Program would get $125 million over the next five years.
  • The Small Publicly Owned Treatment Works Efficiency Grant Program would be established with funding levels to be determined.
  • The Connection to Publicly Owned Treatment Works Grant Program would get $200 million over the next five years.
  • The Water Infrastructure and Workforce Investment Grant Program would get $25 million over the next five years.
  • The Stormwater Infrastructure Technology Program would get $25 million to create five Stormwater Centers of Excellence and $50 million for stormwater infrastructure planning/development and implementation grants.

The bill also includes a drinking water section that reauthorizes the Drinking Water SRF at levels equal to the Clean Water SRF, reauthorizes a drinking water resilience grant program, lead service line and lead in schools grants, PFAS treatment grants, and several other drinking water sustainability grant programs.

Several water infrastructure packages have also been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives over the last several weeks. These bills also seek to provide significant boosts in funding for wastewater, stormwater, and drinking water infrastructure programs. The House bills are also expected to pass through committees and reach the House floor in May.

After the bills pass both House and Senate, they will then be negotiated with the goal of a final agreement by early summer. Once passed by Congress, the water infrastructure package will be eligible to be included in the expected major infrastructure package later this year.

Source: WEF

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