More than 140 water utility leaders from throughout the United States embarked on 352 meetings with members of Congress this week to elevate the importance of investing in water infrastructure.
The utility leaders were part of the American Water Works Association’s Water Matters! Fly-In, an annual event at which water issues are front and center in the halls of Congress. Collaborating with several other water sector organizations, AWWA members called on Congress to renew water infrastructure by supporting federal, state and local funding partnerships.
“Our nation is facing an investment crisis, with $1 trillion needed over the next 25 years if we are to maintain current levels of water service for a growing population,” said Tracy Mehan, AWWA executive director of government affairs. “The longer this investment is delayed, the more expensive it will become. This is truly a bipartisan issue, with Democrats and Republicans alike agreeing it is time to find a solution.”
In the meetings with elected leaders and at other events throughout the week, water professionals are asking Congress to ensure:
- $45 million for Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) for FY2018
- $1.8 billion for Drinking Water State Revolving Fund for FY2018
- $2.8 billion for Clean Water State Revolving Fund for FY2018
- $50 million for the Bureau of Reclamation’s water reuse and recycling program (Title XVI)
- $5 million for National Priorities Research Funding
- Full tax-exempt status for interest earned on municipal bonds
- Removal of the cap on tax-exempt private activity bonds for water and wastewater infrastructure
AWWA members stressed that WIFIA, which makes available low-interest federal loans for large water projects, represents the perfect balance between federal assistance and local responsibility. WIFIA is being funded for the first time in 2017 at a level of $20 million, which can leverage $1 billion in loans.
“In a budget climate that puts every penny of taxpayer money under a magnifying glass, WIFIA makes a big impact at a small price,” Mehan noted. (More on WIFIA is available in an op-ed published on AWWA’s web site.)
As AWWA members ascended Capitol Hill, the Value of Water Campaign published a report that said closing the water infrastructure investment gap would result in $220 billion in annual economic activity and result in 1.3 million jobs annually. Water professionals from several organizations also gathered at a “Rally for Water” adjacent to the Capitol, where members of Congress and water sector leaders spoke about the value of water infrastructure investment.