House Dems offer water infrastructure proposals

A pair of bills introduced by House Democrats in March would seek to pump billions of additional dollars into water infrastructure repair efforts, but neither proposal is expected to gain the necessary bipartisan support to advance.Capitol

One of the measures offered was H.R. 1647, the latest iteration of Rep. Earl Blumenauer’s (D-Ore.) proposal to establish a national water infrastructure trust fund. Similar to earlier versions of the bill, the measure would establish a voluntary program through which consumer product manufacturers could place a small label on their products explaining that the company is “contributing to America’s clean water.” For each unit that displayed such a label, companies would contribute $0.03 to the trust fund. Resulting revenues would then be split between the Drinking Water and Clean Water SRFs.

The trust fund concept enjoys some support among water sector stakeholders, but other organizations, such as the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, have expressed caution. Chief among concerns is that future shortfalls in the trust fund could lead to discussions about a federal water ratepayer tax to close the gap. Conversely, if the voluntary fee were to generate more revenues than expected, Congress may be tempted to raid the water trust fund to finance other budgetary priorities – as lawmakers have done to other trust funds in the past.

Also introduced recently was the Water Affordability, Transparency, Equity and Reliability (WATER) Act (H.R. 1673). While the complete bill text was not immediately available, a statement from sponsor Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), who said the bill would “provide nearly $35 billion annually to modernize U.S. water infrastructure.” The statement said the bill includes a new program to help states issue grants to replace lead service lines, plus a new School Drinking Water Improvement Grant program to promote the testing, repair and replacement of drinking water bottle filling stations in schools.

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