WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), and Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Minority Leader, and Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, have introduced a bill, S. 741, The Water Infrastructure Resiliency and Sustainability Act. This legislation aims to help local communities meet the challenges of upgrading water infrastructure systems to meet the hydrological changes we are seeing today.
The bill directs the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish a Water Infrastructure Resiliency and Sustainability program. Grants will be awarded to eligible water systems to make necessary upgrades. Communities across the country will be able to compete for federal matching funds, which in turn will help finance projects to help communities overcome the threats posed by aging water infrastructure systems forced to cope with changing population needs and changing hydrological conditions.
“Our water infrastructure is in a state of crisis that is only exacerbated by the effects of climate change, growing populations and demand. The longer we ignore the problem, the more it costs us,” said Senator Cardin, a senior member of the Environment and Public Works Committee. “There is no need to lose billions in revenue from disrupted business and flooded streets. We are in a crisis that can be averted. We have no other choice but to elevate investments in our water infrastructure to a public safety priority and to take action.”
“Water has always been a precious resource in Nevada. But our limited water supplies are growing even scarcer as a result of the long-term western drought, and it is critical we do all we can to maximize the use of the water we still have,” said Senator Reid. “Nevada understands far too well the challenges that the long-term drought is having and this legislation invests in measures to address the impacts that climate change and extreme weather are having on our water infrastructure. This bill will allow Nevada and states across our nation to make their water systems stronger through water conservation, water reuse, building or modifying new systems.”
Senator Boxer said: “My home state of California is facing some of the nation’s most critical water resources challenges. This legislation will help ensure that our communities have access to clean, safe drinking water, while also strengthening our aging water infrastructure and protecting against the dangerous impacts of climate change, including severe flooding and prolonged drought.”
Like many of the roads, bridges, and other public assets on which the country relies, most of our buried water infrastructure was built 50 or more years ago, in the post-World War II era of rapid demographic change and economic growth. Some of our systems are even older; in Baltimore, many of the pipes were installed in the 1800s. Some of these “pipes” are wooden. The incidents of water main breaks and burst pipes come daily across the country. It is estimated that by 2020, the forecasted deficit for sustaining water delivery and wastewater treatment infrastructure, will trigger a $206 billion increase in costs for businesses. In a worst case scenario, a lack of water infrastructure investment will cause the United States to lose nearly 700,000 jobs by 2020.
A healthy water infrastructure system is as important to America’s economy as paved roads and sturdy bridges. Water and wastewater investment has been shown to spur economic growth. The U.S. Conference of Mayors has found that for every dollar invested in water infrastructure, the Gross Domestic Product is increased to more than $6. The Department of Commerce has found that that same dollar yields close to $3 worth of economic output in other industries. Every job created in local water and sewer industries creates close to four jobs elsewhere in the national economy.
Improving water conservation, adjustments to current infrastructure systems, and funding programs to stabilize communities’ existing water supply are all projects WIRS grants will fund. WIRS will never grant more than 50% of any project’s cost, ensuring cooperation between local communities and the federal government. The EPA will try to award funds that use new and innovative ideas as often as possible.