The undersigned organizations urge you to support the Water Affordability, Transparency, Equity and Reliability (WATER) Act (H.R. 1673). Federal funding for our public water and sewer systems has decreased significantly. From 1977 to 2014 per capita funding for water infrastructure decreased by 82 percent. Meanwhile, many of our water systems are reaching the end of their lifespan and are in desperate need of costly repairs. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that we will need at least $697-billion over the next 20 years to update our drinking water and wastewater systems.
Failing infrastructure isn’t our only problem, however; in many parts of the country, people do not have access to safe drinking water and wastewater disposal because of a lack of investment in developing new infrastructure.
The Trump administration has promised an infrastructure plan that likely will include massive tax breaks to Wall Street and corporations to privatize our nation’s infrastructure. Privatization, including through public-private partnerships, is a terrible idea for water and sewer systems. Water privatization often results in increased water rates, deteriorated service quality and a loss of water department jobs. Worse, many of the communities most in need of water upgrades, including in rural and low-income areas and communities of color, would be left out of Trump’s plan because private companies won’t invest in places where they can’t make money. We need a plan for upgrading our water infrastructure that will create jobs and help all communities, regardless of their size or credit rating.
The WATER Act will invest $35-billion annually in water infrastructure, and allow us to begin to ensure that all people in the country have access to the safe, affordable water service that they deserve and we can create nearly 1-million jobs across the economy in the process. The WATER Act will:
- Create the WATER Fund, which would be funded by ending the deferral on income taxes on offshore corporate profits, and would be distributed annually through the existing Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) programs.
- Allow state Drinking Water SRFs to issue grants to private properties to replace homeowners’ service lines that contain, or may contain, lead.
- Establish a School Drinking Water Improvement Grant program to provide funding to public schools that wish to test, repair, replace, or install the infrastructure necessary to ensure drinking water fountains or bottle filling stations are lead free.
- Amend the Drinking Water SRF eligibility to restrict funding to publicly owned and operated water systems and small private mom-and-pop systems, so that large water corporations no longer take subsidized loans and resources away from municipal and small systems. It allows communities to use SRF funds to buy private water systems.
- Support affordability programs to help prevent water shutoffs.
- Assist small, rural and tribal communities to make necessary improvements to their water and wastewater systems.
- Create a new grant program for residential onsite sewage disposal systems to help households install and improve their septic tanks, and it will provide dedicated funding for rural household water wells.
- Require at least half of SRF funds be used to provide grants and other additional subsidization to help disadvantaged communities improve their water and sewer systems.
- Dedicate 3 percent of Drinking Water SRF dollars for Indian Tribes and Alaska Native villages to provide drinking water.
- Support American workers by encouraging the use of union labor for water infrastructure projects, and requiring Davis-Bacon prevailing wage law to be applied to all projects funding by the Drinking Water SRF and the Clean Water SRF programs. It also requires the use of U.S.-made iron and steel on water system projects funded by state Drinking Water SRF programs.
If the water crisis in Flint, Michigan has taught us anything, it is that we cannot continue to ignore our drinking water and wastewater systems. Congress must take strong action now to invest in water infrastructure. We urge our decision makers in Washington to resist Trump’s plan to privatize our water systems and give tax breaks to Wall Street. Further, we urge members of the U.S. House of Representatives to become co-sponsors of the WATER Act, and we urge members of the U.S. Senate to introduce the WATER Act in their chamber.