WIFIA Legislation Approved in U.S. Senate; House up Next

The U.S. Senate passed legislation last month that would create a Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Authority, a key development in addressing America?s trillion-dollar water infrastructure challenge. A WIFIA pilot program is included in the Water Resources Development Act of 2013 (S. 601), which passed by a vote of 83-14. It now moves on to the U.S. House of Representatives for consideration.

The American Water Works Association, which developed the WIFIA concept, called WIFIA?s passage a ?huge step forward? for water consumers and urged broad support as the legislation heads to the House.
?[The] approval of WIFIA by the U.S. Senate represents a huge step forward in confronting America?s water infrastructure challenge,? said AWWA Executive Director David LaFrance. ?WIFIA would repair more critical water infrastructure at a lower cost to our communities. With so many of our nation?s water pipes in need of replacement, WIFIA will benefit everyone who receives a water bill.

?We are delighted to see the Senate take the bill to final passage,? LaFrance added. ?We commend Sen. Barbara Boxer and Sen. David Vitter for working together in a bipartisan manner on this critical legislation. Now our commitment turns to the House, in the hopes the chamber will pass a similar bill this year.?

Boxer, D-Calif., is chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, and Vitter, R-La., is the ranking Republican. A key part of WIFIA?s success was AWWA?s partnership with the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies and the Water Environment Federation in taking the concept to Capitol Hill. The WRDA S. 601 will likely be referred to the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Committee on Energy and Commerce.

In 2012, AWWA published a comprehensive water infrastructure report titled??Buried No Longer: Confronting America?s Water Infrastructure Challenge,? demonstrating that more than $1 trillion will be required over the next 25 years to repair and expand existing drinking water infrastructure. The report noted that local utility customers will bear the cost of renewal through higher water rates, but that ?states and the federal government can help with a careful and cost-effective program that lowers the cost of necessary investments to our communities, such as the creation of a credit support program ? for example, AWWA?s proposed Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Authority.?

USCM Report Shows Cost-Saving Tools for City Water Projects

Last month, the United States Conference of Mayors (USCM) released a report that shows how efficient procurement practices can reduce public infrastructure costs allowing local government to contain costs and reduce the need to increase consumer rates.

Prepared by the USCM Mayors Water Council, the report titled ?Municipal Procurement Process Improvements Yield Cost-Effective Public Benefits,? focuses on the shortcomings of traditional procurement practices and uses procurement of public water and wastewater pipes to illustrate the benefits of applying life-cycle analysis to identify pipe materials that offer cost savings and extend the useful design performance of the system.

The new economic reality of local government finances, where expenditures exceed revenues, has led many cities to seek out greater efficiencies so that public works can deliver the public benefit value of government enterprise, by creating the physical infrastructure necessary for economic success and increased quality of life in their cities.

?Public water and wastewater pipes are essential in delivering safe, adequate and affordable public water services, and we hope that our report will provide solutions for local leaders to find more cost-effective and efficient ways to manage their water systems, despite challenging economic times,? said U.S. Conference of Mayors CEO and executive director Tom Cochran. ?There could be nearly 3 million miles of buried pipe across the country and it is costly to buy, install and operate. But we?re still proud that despite budget constraints, our country has some of the safest drinking water in the world.?

The aging underground pipe systems in North America experience more than 300,000 water main breaks each year, costing the economy some $50 billion in lost water, energy costs and repair and replacement. There is much room for materials cost improvement in this sector. Several cities are noted in the report (Pleasanton, Calif., Indianapolis, Ind., Schenectady, N.Y.) for their efforts to open the local procurement process to find efficiencies by challenging traditional materials selection criteria.

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