May. 11, 2018 Major Water Infrastructure Bill Introduced in Senate

Includes WEF-backed Provisions

May 11, 2018 - On May 9, 2018, the Senate Environment & Public Works (EPW) Committee held a hearing on the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, which includes the biennial Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) and a number of other important water infrastructure provisions that WEF has been advocating for. In addition to authorizing US Army Corps of Engineers projects and programs for the next two years, the bi-partisan bill includes drinking water, wastewater and stormwater policy provisions that address some of the nations’ most pressing water infrastructure funding challenges. WEF joined with other water associations to send a letter of support to the Committee prior to the hearing.

The bill will reauthorize the WIFIA program for fiscal years 2020 and 2021 at the $50 million per year. WIFIA’s current authorization is set to expire after 2019, and WEF has supported legislation to reauthorize the program and increase annual funding levels. At $50 million per year, the EPA will be about to loan up to $5 billion in new water infrastructure funding per year.

Also, the legislation includes the text of S. 692, the Water Infrastructure Flexibility Act which WEF has endorsed and passed the Senate in 2017. The legislation codifies into law the Integrated Planning framework that provides communities with flexibility to prioritize investments in wastewater and stormwater projects needed for CWA compliance. It also establish an Office of Municipal Ombudsman at the EPA to assist utilities in complying with federal environmental laws. It will also compel the EPA to promote "green infrastructure” as a suitable stormwater management approach relative to traditional grey infrastructure. Finally, it requires the EPA to update this guidance and expand the criteria for determining affordability and revise its guidance for affordability measures.

Another important provision in the bill that WEF recommended was the establishment of a multiagency federal task force to study and provide recommendations to Congress on solutions to fund stormwater infrastructure. EPA estimates $150 billion will be needed over the next decade for MS4 compliance to the Clean Water Act. The task force will, with feedback from permittees, state and local governments, and other program stakeholders, provide in a report to Congress suggestions for improving the funding and financing of stormwater systems.

Other provisions in the bill that WEF is supportive of are:

Additionally, other provisions included in the bill that impact water infrastructure:

  • Legislative text of S. 518, the Small and Rural Community Clean Water Technical Assistance Act which will set aside portions of the annual Clean Water SRF capitalization grants to state to fund circuit riders to provide technical assistance to small and medium sized wastewater agencies.
  • Provides access to the SRF, WIFIA and USDA Rural Development funding for onsite wastewater recycling as one alternative for communities that cannot afford the up-front costs or maintenance costs of traditional wastewater infrastructure.
  • Directs the US Government Accountability Office to complete a study with recommendations to Congress on how the increase access to WIFIA funding for small, rural, and disadvantaged communities.

The Senate EPW Committee is expected to mark-up the legislation in the coming weeks and pass it out of Committee before the end of the month. The House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee is also working on legislation, but an introduction date has not yet been announced.