House passes Build Back Better Act with additional water provisions

U.S. Capitol building

In November, the U.S. House of Representatives narrowly passed a $1.75 trillion social spending bill that, according to the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA), includes more than $10 billion for several water-related priorities. These funds would come in addition to the nearly $50 billion in new drinking water and wastewater spending that was enacted last week through the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

The latest legislation, the Build Back Better Act (H.R. 5376), is a Democratic-backed budget reconciliation bill focused on a variety of social spending priorities.

Among them is $9 billion in grants to address lead in drinking water through several EPA programs established with AMWA’s support in 2016, focused on lead service line replacements and replacing outdated drinking water fountains in schools. Another $970 million would be made available through USDA for lead service line replacement projects in rural areas. The new lead remediation dollars would be appropriated immediately and would remain available through the 2026 fiscal year.

The bill would also provide $225 million for new EPA grants to states and tribes to reduce the water rates and arrearages of low-income households and $100 million for the Bureau of Reclamation to provide funding assistance for large-scale water reuse projects.

In a statement from the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA), CEO Adam Krantz said:

“This morning, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass the Build Back Better Act. This legislation takes action to support more affordable, resilient water services around the country. If enacted, the bill will provide nearly $2 billion in federal funding for sewer overflow controls, stormwater management and investment in water recycling – long-awaited funding that will help address some of the greatest drivers of increasing water rates. The bill would further help local communities invest in climate adaptation and resilience to protect critical infrastructure.”

H.R. 5376 will now move onto the Senate, where additional changes could be made to the bill. Democratic Senate leaders aim to have the chamber vote on the measure before the end of December.

Sources: Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, National Association of Clean Water Agencies

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