Major water groups urge Congress to pass critical infrastructure legislation

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WASHINGTON, DC, Nov. 14, 2013 -- On Wednesday, Nov. 13, the American Water Works Association (AWWA) and 10 other major water and municipal groups urged key members of Congress to support pivotal legislation to repair critical water infrastructure across the nation.

The groups requested support for the creation of a Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Authority (WIFIA), an innovative federal loan program that would reduce the cost of water projects for local communities and consumers, through a series of letters to U.S. senators and representatives on four decisive committees. 

In May, a model WIFIA program was passed as part of the Senate Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), and draft WIFIA legislation is being developed in the U.S. House. WIFIA is expected to be addressed as House and Senate leaders develop a final water resources bill.

"By providing a source of low‐cost capital and promoting innovations in project delivery, WIFIA will help meet the nation's water infrastructure needs while maintaining full local responsibility, minimizing the federal budgetary impact and creating tens of thousands of American jobs," the water and municipal groups wrote.

Signatories included AWWA, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National League of Cities, the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, the American Beverage Association, the Water Environment Federation, the American Council of Engineering Companies, the Water and Sewer Distributors of America, the Water Design-Build Council, the National Ground Water Association, and the WaterReuse Association.

The signatories stressed in the letter that they also support state revolving funds (SRF) programs and want them to continue to thrive. They noted that SRF program alone cannot address the nation's enormous water infrastructure needs and is rarely able to support large water infrastructure projects. WIFIA is intended to address this gap and provide long‐term, low interest loans for projects over $20 million that cannot always access funding through the SRF programs.

"WIFIA loans will be repaid entirely from local rates and charges -- water bills -- maintaining full local responsibility for water infrastructure development, but creating a mechanism to provide lower‐cost capital and promote innovations in project finance and delivery," the letter states. "If a utility can save just two percentage points on the interest rate for a 30‐year loan, that results in a savings of 25 percent in the financing costs of a project. This, in turn, will allow local resources to go farther, accelerating critically needed water infrastructure investment and lowering costs for American families."

Letters were delivered today to leadership of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, the Subcommittee on Water Resources and the Environment, and Senate conferees who will deliberate over water resources legislation with their House counterparts, once those House members have been named.

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