It was an exciting week for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF)!
The CWSRF is a federal infrastructure program that provides low-interest loans to states – requiring a 20% state match – for wastewater and stormwater infrastructure improvements. Since 1987, the CWSRF has loaned $42 billion to 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, allowing states to leverage over $126 billion in wastewater infrastructure improvements. The CWSRF is the primary source of federal assistance for states and communities to construct, repair, and replace our nation’s network of wastewater and stormwater systems.
Our nation’s wastewater and stormwater treatment facilities provide a critical service in protecting public health and the environment. However, these infrastructure systems are aging and face a growing fund gap. ASCE’s 2017 Infrastructure Report Card gave our nation’s wastewater infrastructure a “D+,” and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that $271 billion will be needed for wastewater infrastructure over the next 20 years. It is expected that 56 million new users will be connected to centralized wastewater treatment centers in the coming years, which will require the construction of 532 new systems by 2032.
ASCE supports robust legislation that invests in wastewater and stormwater infrastructure, which is why we are proud to endorse the bipartisan Water Quality Protection and Job Creation Act of 2019 (H.R. 1497). This legislation was introduced by House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Chair of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources & Environment, Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA), along with Reps. John Katko (R-NY), and Don Young (R-AK). This bill reauthorizes the CWSRF for $20 billion over five years, funds non-point and point source water pollution control programs, and creates pilot programs to promote stormwater best management practices and resiliency.
Also this week, the House Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources & Environment held a hearing entitled “The Clean Water State Revolving Fund: How Federal Infrastructure Investment Can Help Communities Modernize Water Infrastructure and Address Affordability Challenges.” ASCE submitted a Statement for the Record outlining clean water infrastructure priorities. In his opening remarks, Ranking Member Bruce Westerman (R-AR) called for an “all-hands-on-deck approach to reserve the decline of our nation’s infrastructure,” including searching for new funding sources, increasing public-private partnerships (P3s), improving federal regulations, focusing on innovative technologies, and EPA implementation of its integrated planning initiative.
The hearing also asserted the need to address water affordability to so disadvantaged communities and low-income resident do not face undue financial hardship. Last Congress, ASCE endorsed the bipartisan Low-Income Water Customer Assistance Programs Act of 2018 (S. 3564), which establishes pilot programs for low income residents to receive aid in paying their drinking water or wastewater utility bill and helps the utilities that service them. The bill also requires the EPA to conduct a study on the cost and best methods of transitioning from a pilot program to a nationwide program. ASCE is actively working with the bill’s authors, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Roger Wicker (R-MS) to get the bill reintroduced this Congress.
ASCE is pleased that Congress has highlighted the importance of robust investment in our nation’s wastewater and stormwater infrastructure systems and the need for innovative affordability mechanisms. We look forward to working with Congress to close the wastewater infrastructure funding gap.