Trump signs industry-backed, bipartisan water infrastructure bill

America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 was signed into law by President Donald J. Trump on Tuesday. The U.S. water infrastructure sector is lauding it as an important step forward in the nation’s efforts to fund the renewal of aging water infrastructure.

The measure moved on to the President’s desk following it’s passage in the Senate earlier this month by a nearly unanimous vote of 99-1. Industry associations including the American Water Works Association (AWWA) applauded the news of the bill being signed.

America’s Water Infrastructure Act is a combination of regular, two-year Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) legislation and a Safe Drinking Water Act bill that the House produced. The legislation authorizes EPA’s Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) for two more years and removes its pilot designation, a key milestone for the federal loan program according to AWWA.

“The reauthorization of WIFIA at $50 million – and the fact that it is no longer a ‘pilot’ – is a significant milestone for the program and a great victory for the entire water sector,” said AWWA CEO David LaFrance. “AWWA’s members can be proud of their work to elevate the issue of water infrastructure renewal, craft a workable solution, and then refine and fund it.”

The legislation, also known as S. 3021, reauthorizes the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund for the first time since 2003. The three-year authorization more than doubles the loan program’s authorized spending to $1.95 billion by the third year. AWWA’s 2012 Buried No Longer report found that an additional $1 billion would be required over a 25-year period to repair and expand the U.S. water infrastructure. WIFIA provides low interest federal loans for large water infrastructure projects.

The National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) also commended both the House and Senate for their strong collaboration throughout the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) process to ensure the inclusion of several bipartisan provisions that are important to the municipal clean water sector.

“This legislation reinforces the critical role that municipal water infrastructure plays in communities all across the nation, as well as the need for robust federal funding to help support this infrastructure,” said Adam Krantz, NACWA’s chief executive officer. “NACWA thanks Congress for its leadership on this issue and is committed to continued efforts to elevate water as a top national priority.”

NACWA specifically said it supports the provisions that make permanent the Water Infrastructure Finance & Innovation Act (WIFIA) program and provides increased funding authorizations at $50 million each for the next two fiscal years. It also supports the inclusion of a new program to help bolster financing for the State Revolving Funds (SRFs), the renewed authorization of $225 million annually over the next two fiscal years for the Combined Sewer Overflow grants program, and the creation of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) task force which will include local government representation to study and provide recommendations on how to address stormwater funding and financing.

Additionally, the bill includes language championed by NACWA and water sector partners to establish a water workforce training pilot grant program through EPA, as well as language to improve coordination between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and local communities on water management plans.

AWWA provided substantial input, including advocating for stronger requirements for notifying downstream water utilities of chemical spills and updating security and resiliency provisions to reflect an all-hazards approach. The legislation establishes a Drinking Water System Infrastructure Resilience and Sustainability Program to award grants to increase resilience to natural hazards.

“We think the legislation strikes an important balance in applying an all-hazards approach to evaluating risk and resilience in the water sector,” added AWWA Federal Relations Manager Kevin Morley, who oversees the Association’s security and emergency preparedness work. “We believe that many of the resources AWWA has developed will aid utilities in meeting these new requirements.”

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