Steve Dye, director of legislative affairs for the Water Environment Federation (WEF), recently gave Pumps & Systems an update on what we should have our eye on in Congress, and what projects WEF has underway.
P&S: What piece legislation is a top priority for WEF right now? Why does it matter so much?
Dye: WEF’s top legislative priority currently is passage of legislation to reauthorize and increase funding for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) Program. In the House, HR 1497 by U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio [of Oregon] is a bipartisan bill that will do that, as well as provide significant grant dollars to assist utilities with a with wastewater and stormwater collections systems. A companion bill is being developed in the Senate. Our hope is Congress will either include it in a major infrastructure package later this year or as part of the Water Resources Development Act in 2020.
The Clean Water SRF is a critically important infrastructure financing resource for communities nationwide. There’s an estimated $80 billion annual water infrastructure funding needs gap, and increasing the Clean Water SRF program, as well as continued robust funding through [Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act] WIFIA, will help communities make the infrastructure investments they need to make to ensure their citizens have a reliable and safe system.
P&S: For OEMs and distributors in the water/wastewater sector—what projects that WEF is working on should they know about?
Dye: An initiative WEF launched at WEFTEC 2018 is the ReNEW Water Project, which sets forth a bold, aspirational and public call to action to accelerate resource recovery. The NEW stands for nutrients, energy and water. Aging infrastructure, population pressures, climate change and funding limitations strain water resources and call for sustainable management solutions. Wastewater treatment plants cannot operate merely as disposal facilities any longer. Instead, resource recovery must become a cornerstone of facility operation, producing water for reuse, recovering nutrients, and reducing fossil fuel consumption by using the energy in wastewater. Better efficiency and building a circular economy will mean changing how things are done. This includes investment in new and more efficient equipment to enable these goals.
P&S: How do you lobby on behalf of WEF and the water/wastewater sectors? How can OEMs, distributors and executives in the pump industry work with WEF to support legislation that will be beneficial to them?
Dye: There are several ways that WEF members can engage with their federally elected officials, and we encourage greater participation because research by the Congressional Management Foundation shows that direct constituent engagement has more influence on decision-making by members of Congress and their staff than all other forms of lobbying.
The easiest and fastest way for a water professional to send an email their congressman is through WEF’s Water Advocates grassroots lobbying website, which has several campaigns active on issues important to WEF’s members, such as increased funding for water infrastructure and increased funding for R&D. Water Advocates is open to members and nonmembers of WEF.
WEF also hosts the National Water Policy Fly-in annually in Washington, D.C., with several other national water associations during Water Week. We typically have about 200 water professionals from across the nation join another several hundred from other water associations for a couple days of congressional meetings and policy updates from federal agencies. In 2020, Water Week will be April 27-May 1, and we welcome anyone who would like to participate.
Another lobbying approach that we encourage is to directly engage with your federal, state and local elected officials back home. This could be at a town hall meeting or during another local event. Maybe request a meeting in their local district office with the elected official or their district staff. Inviting them for a tour of your facility or to a project worksite is also a great way for them to learn more about and support the water sector.
Too often elected officials think about other forms of infrastructure, such as transportation or airports, before they think of water infrastructure. It’s critical for water sector stakeholders to help elected officials understand and support the importance of water infrastructure investments in communities. To aid these efforts, WEF has resources available through the Water’s Worth It program and Value of Water campaign.
P&S: Is there anything more you think the pumps industry, and specifically the OEMs, distributors and executives in the industry, should know about right now?
Dye: WEF is committed to getting the word out to consumers about what should go down drains—the three Ps. WEF is continuing to push the manufacture of nonflushable wipes from the market and to modify “flushable” wipe products so that they’re truly flushable and breakdown quickly. WEF also has bill-stuffers and other public education materials available for utilities and the public to inform them not flush wipes. It’s unreasonable to expect equipment to handle materials never intended during design.