Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) recently introduced a bill, called The Water Infrastructure Resiliency and Sustainability Act, that seeks to help local communities upgrade aging water infrastructure systems.
The bill directs the EPA to establish a “Water Infrastructure Resiliency and Sustainability” program, under which grants would be awarded to eligible water systems to make necessary upgrades. Communities across the country would be eligible to compete for federal matching funds to finance water infrastructure improvement projects. The bill calls for $50 million to be appropriated for each of fiscal years 2015 through 2019 to fund these grants. In order to promote cooperation between local communities and the federal government, federal matching funds would not be permitted to exceed 50% of any project’s cost.
“Our water infrastructure is in a state of crisis that is only exacerbated by the effects of climate change, growing populations and demand. The longer we ignore the problem, the more it costs us,” said Senator Cardin, a senior member of the Environment and Public Works Committee. “There is no need to lose billions in revenue from disrupted business and flooded streets. We are in a crisis that can be averted. We have no other choice but to elevate investments in our water infrastructure to a public safety priority and to take action.”
As our reporting has repeatedly shown, we at CWC couldn’t agree more with Senator Cardin, and we applaud his efforts and those of his cosponsors to address the significant and growing deficiency in federal water infrastructure funding. As we wrote a few months ago, federal spending on water infrastructure is down more than 30 percent since 2012. At a time when investment in our aging and deteriorating water infrastructure should be growing, the federal government seems to be ignoring the problem. So we are encouraged by this proposed legislation, though we note that with all three of the bill’s sponsors in the Senate minority, the chances of passage are slim. Moreover, the $50 million in funding would have to be separately appropriated each year, and that annual appropriation is by no means a certainty.
For the text of the bill, click here.