March 24, 2021

EPW Committee Unanimously Approves Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill to Rebuild our Nation’s Water Systems

Legislation will expand Americans’ access to safe, clean water and provide assistance for low-income families that cannot afford water services

WASHINGTON U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Chair of the Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure (Environment and Public Works Committee) lauded bipartisan approval today (20-0) of a bill to rebuild our nation’s water infrastructure that he introduced earlier this week with Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Kevin Cramer (R-N.D).

The S. 914, the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act of 2021 (DWWIA 2021) authorizes more than $35 billion for drinking water and wastewater projects across the country with a focus on upgrading aging infrastructure, addressing the threat of climate change, investing in new technologies, and providing assistance to marginalized communities. Within the package is a provision based on legislation introduced by Senator Cardin and Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), and cosponsored by Senator Debbie Stabenow (D.Mich.), to establish new pilot programs that award grants to help low-income households pay their drinking water or wastewater bills. DWWIA 2021 also includes two programs to create new resiliency grants for water systems and treatment works to increase their ability to withstand natural hazards, including extreme weather, authored by Senator Cardin and Ranking Member Capito.

“Clean, safe water is foundational for every community across Maryland and across this country. Our bipartisan legislation takes important steps toward maintaining critical infrastructure networks and shoring up America’s aging drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure against the costly threat of climate change. At the same time, we will help communities meet public health standards without cost-burdening customers who cannot afford to pay more for water services,” said Senator Cardin. “The faster we act to make our water systems resilient to climate change impacts, the more we can reduce the risks and control the costs. There is no better investment than protecting public health through our water infrastructure.”

“Every American has a right to clean water—no matter their zip code, the color of their skin or the size of their income,” said Senator Duckworth, Chair of Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water, and Wildlife. “From permanent brain damage from drinking water contaminated with lead, to overflowing sewage, Americans across the country are now experiencing what happens when our drinking water and wastewater systems age into a state of disrepair. Rebuilding our water infrastructure must be at the heart of the ongoing ‘Build Back Better’ efforts because we will have missed a huge opportunity to improve American lives if we only fix our roads, but fail to repair and upgrade the pipes beneath them. It’s clear that the lack of investments in our water infrastructure has led to a public health crisis and we have to do more to stop it, which is why I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan bill that will help us do that.”

“I’m very pleased to join with Chairman Carper to introduce our bipartisan water and wastewater infrastructure bill,” EPW Ranking Member Capito said. “The Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act will advance infrastructure to help local communities keep their drinking water safe and clean. With investments to identify and prevent water loss, test water quality, increase resilience in infrastructure, and recruit the next generation of our water workforce, the priorities laid out in the bill speak to the bipartisan goal of ensuring neglected water systems are not merely tended to, but made stronger. This bill is not a band-aid—it provides essential assistance to our country’s aging water systems and the communities they serve. In a greater sense, this bill also represents the solid work that comes out of good-faith negotiations. This is a meaningful bill every Republican and Democrat can get behind. Chairman Carper and I worked together and never took our eye off our mutual goal: a bipartisan bill that can pass both chambers and be signed into law. We have that here with this bill. Our committee serves as the example of how infrastructure can be done on a bipartisan basis, and I hope to continue in this spirit as we work on other infrastructure priorities.”

“This bipartisan solution gives states the flexibility they need to improve their infrastructure, and establishes programs geared toward small and rural public water systems like those across my home state of Wyoming. The updates and improvements that we are making under this bill are essential for communities in Wyoming as well as tribes across the nation,” said Senator Lummis, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water, and Wildlife.

“Far too many Americans can’t trust what comes out of their faucets and many more are only one disaster away from being in the same situation. This is a crisis—one that is acutely felt by the most vulnerable among us—and we have a moral obligation to fix it,” said EPW Chairman Carper. “The bipartisan Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act is a critical step to strengthen our nation’s water systems and ensure that all Americans have access to clean and safe drinking water and wastewater. I’m proud to join with my EPW colleagues to introduce this important infrastructure legislation.”

“Our bipartisan legislation ensures North Dakota’s small, rural, and tribal communities have access to safe drinking water and waste water infrastructure programs,” said Senator Cramer, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure. “It is a wise investment and another example of the bipartisan infrastructure reforms Congress should pursue.” 

The Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act of 2021

DWWIA 2021 will invest more than $35 billion in Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grant programs and revolving loan funds that support our nation’s water infrastructure across the country. Of that $35 billion, more than 40 percent can be directly be used to benefit small, disadvantaged, rural, and tribal communities through additional subsidization from the State Revolving Loan Funds or direct grant programs.

The legislation will:

  • Invest significantly in small, disadvantaged, rural, and tribal communities through grant programs that promote environmental justice.
  • Provide states with increased funding and program flexibilities to invest in community water projects that address aging infrastructure and improve water quality through the State Revolving Loan Funds.
  • Connect households to public water and wastewater services, decentralized wastewater services, and improve sanitation in Alaskan rural and native villages.
  • Increase investments in lead abatement through grant programs and assistance.
  • Promote resiliency projects to address the impacts of climate change.
  • Increase investment to address recruitment, training, and retention challenges facing the water and wastewater utility workforce.
  • Invest in the drinking water and wastewater needs of tribal communities.
  • Provide significant investments in technical assistance and new and emerging technologies that result in cleaner, safer, and more reliable water.

The legislation also is co-sponsored by Senators Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Inhofe (R-Okla.), Stabenow (D-Mich.), Sullivan (R-Alaska), Kelly (D-Ariz.), and Padilla (D-Calif.).

 

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