WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Chair of the Environment and Public Works Water and Wildlife Subcommittee, called for bipartisan support to determine the best ways the federal government can support local and state water infrastructure systems. His remarks came while chairing a subcommittee hearing entitled, “Innovation and the Utilities of the Future: How Local Water Treatment Facilities are Leading the Way to Better Manage Wastewater and Water Supplies.”
“Every single person in the U.S. needs clean, safe water. The local operators of America’s aging wastewater, drinking water and sewer systems are leading the way in developing innovative solutions to meet this need in the face of growing challenges. Public utilities have had to rethink how they invest in their systems and many have had success finding environmentally friendly solutions to improve and maintain service — while reducing or abating costs that would otherwise be passed to the ratepayers. Democrats and Republicans should be working together to determine how we at the federal level can encourage such innovation, including public-private partnerships and energy efficient solutions, that will support local flexibility to reach overall objectives.
“As lawmakers, we need to ask ourselves if the federal programs that support investments in our communities’ water infrastructure are keeping up with the changing needs and operations of the utilities they serve. We also must continue to have constructive discussions and debate on how we collectively wish to protect public health and our environment, and our economic vitality, all of which is intertwined with our ability to address our critical infrastructure needs.
“I want to thank the local utilities, including the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC), the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, Green Bay Metropolitan Sewerage District and Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority for sharing their stories of success and challenges with the committee. I applaud their forward thinking and constant effort to seek the best overall solutions for their distinct communities. Across America, utilities are partnering with agricultural producers in their watersheds to invest in nutrient pollution abatement efforts on farms that achieve better pollution reduction results than would cost-prohibitive system investments. In cities like Camden, N.J., the deployment and utilization of renewable power generation is saving ratepayers money and reducing carbon emissions from water utilities. The incorporation of green infrastructure and stormwater abatement is reducing wear-and-tear and the strain on capacity constraints of combined sewer systems, helping reduce maintenance costs and better protecting water resources. Customer rebates are encouraging better consumer choices when it comes to water conservation as an alternative to undertaking massive and expensive infrastructure overhauls. And the use of modern information technologies like paperless billing and smartphone apps are saving customers on their utility bills while keeping them better informed about the services they receive.”