Water Leaders Approach Congress to Elevate Infrastructure Challenge, Affordability Concerns

Nearly 200 water utility leaders from across the United States ascended the steps of Capitol Hill April 17, urging their members of Congress to vote for legislation that addresses the nation’s water infrastructure challenge and confronts mounting affordability concerns.

The water utility leaders — in Washington, D.C., as part of the Water Matters! Fly In, sponsored by the American Water Works Association and the Water Environment Federation — asked members of Congress to support the Senate Water Resources Development Act (S.601), which would include a provision creating a Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Authority. WIFIA, modeled after a successful program in the transportation sector, would make low-interest federal loans available for large water, wastewater and storm water projects and help to create jobs. The delegates also encouraged the introduction of WIFIA legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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“We are here today as a united water community,” said AWWA public affairs council chair Jeanne Bailey. “Our water, wastewater and storm water systems were built by previous generations, and we need innovative solutions to ensure their continued success for future generations.”

“Investing in water infrastructure is not only necessary for the health and economic vitality of our country, it also creates jobs that we need,” said WEF executive director Jeff Eger.

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WIFIA would complement existing state revolving loan fund programs, which already provide critical support for both drinking water and wastewater utilities. Delegates asked their elected representatives to ensure these programs are funded at 2012 levels. Under the Water Resources Development Act, WIFIA would have the authority to:

• Provide direct loans, loan guarantees and lines of credit for large water infrastructure projects, with a minimum loan size of $20 million.
• Provide state authorities with the ability to apply for a WIFIA loan to fund an aggregation of smaller projects.
The delegates also urged their elected leaders to:
• Protect the federal tax exemption of municipal bond interest.
• Restore and protect promised payments to the issuers of Build America Bonds.
• Remove water projects from the state volume cap on Private Activity Bonds.

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With federal water mandates imposing a significant financial burden on many communities, the water leaders urged Congress to recognize affordability challenges facing low-income residents. AWWA and WEF believe that funds available to invest in water infrastructure should be directed toward high-priority projects with a clear benefit for public health, the environment and job creation.

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