Jennifer King is a managing editor of Pumps & Systems magazine.
HI, WEF, Water Council say they are happy with the result of this critical legislation
The America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 was signed into law Oct. 23 by President Donald Trump. According to a release from the Hydraulic Institute, the bill makes “federal water infrastructure investment a top priority for the nation.”
The America’s Water Infrastructure Act will increase annual, federal investment on water and wastewater infrastructure from approximately $2 billion to over $7 billion per year, according to HI’s release. HI staff and members have met with legislators on both sides of the aisle, advocating for this legislation and the importance to jobs and the health of communities.
Steve Dye, the director of legislative affairs for the Water Environment Federation (WEF) said the act includes a number of provisions that WEF was happy to support and advocate for on the hill. “We were very involved with everything working up to it, so we were happy to see some of the final provisions that ended up in the bill,” Dye said.
“We’re grateful for all the support that we got from Congress along the way.”
“The bipartisan Water Infrastructure Act signed by President Trump is a tremendous recognition that there is universal agreement that water is critical to our country,” said Dean Amhaus, president and chief executive officer of The Water Council, a water industry and technology hub in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. “The legislation includes many significant items to help address our nation’s growing water challenges, but I am especially pleased that Congress also agrees about the importance of investing in advancing new, innovative technological solutions. Many effective technologies are available in the marketplace already, and the insertion of the Water Technology Acceleration Act in the legislation will undoubtedly help ignite more water innovations.”
In addition, the act includes the directive to “improve the efficiency and timeliness of the WIFIA loan approval process.” According to Dye, this verbiage is meant to encourage the United States Environmental Protection Agency to work out kinks with the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act that has kept some loans under works for more than a year and a half. “WEF worked with American Water Works Association and Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies to get the WIFIA passed,” Dye said, “and we’re thrilled by it and want it to continue to grow, work the kinks out and work to continue it to be fully funded.”
Another item included in the act is the creation of a stormwater financing task force, which WEF proposed, Dye said. At the local and municipal level, many stormwater systems are required to be compliant with the MS4 permits needed under the Clean Water Act, which keeps harmful pollutants from being washed or dumped into the conveyance, but do not have ways to pay for meeting these requirements, he said.
The task force will bring together federal agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers, state governments, local utilities and communities with MS4 permits.
“The plan for this task force is to come up with some recommendations on how to fund and finance stormwater infrastructure projects,” Dye said. “It will report to Congress with some recommendations and hopefully move forward with some new policies.” Dye said the deadline for this report is 2020.
Also, under the America’s Water Infrastructure Act, combined sewer overflow (CSO), sanitary sewer overflow (SSO) and stormwater systems have a new pool of grant dollars for funding. Dye said $225 million a year each for 2019 and 2020 will be available and initially will go to communities that are most in need.
“Hopefully we can build up the program in future rounds of funding,” he said.
Finally, WEF is excited about a new workforce investment program included in the act that will help communities with training and identifying employees for the water sector.
“There’s a huge need in the sector for training for the next generation,” Dye said.
As stated in the HI release, U.S. Sen. John Boozman (R-AR), chair of the Senate fisheries, water and wildlife subcommittee said, “I’m particularly pleased that this bill also includes the Securing Required Funding for Water Infrastructure Now, or SRF WIN Act, legislation I introduced with Senator [Cory] Booker [D-NJ]. What the SRF WIN Act does is simple: it combines the efficiency and trust associated with the State Revolving Funds with the leveraging power of the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act. This legislation makes the process easier and more affordable for states and communities to access federal water infrastructure funding—providing millions and potentially billions to communities that have not had access to federal water infrastructure funding.”
“I applaud President Trump for signing this significant piece of infrastructure legislation into law,” said U.S. Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), chair of the Senate environment and public works committee. “The president called on Congress to act and America’s Water Infrastructure Act delivers. The bipartisan bill will keep communities safe and cut red tape, all while being fiscally responsible. It is good for Wyoming and good for the nation. America’s Water Infrastructure Act will upgrade and maintain aging dams and irrigation systems, increase water storage, and deepen nationally significant ports. It authorizes funds to repair aging drinking water systems, so that communities across America have access to clean drinking water. It authorizes important projects that will create jobs and grow our economy.”