Water professionals urge Congress to spur water infrastructure renewal
The water utility leaders were in Washington as delegates of the Water Matters! Fly-In, an annual event hosted by the American Water Works Association.
WASHINGTON, D.C., April 14, 2016 -- With water infrastructure issues in headlines across America, more than 130 water utility professionals from 47 states are visiting their members of Congress this week to urge funding for critical loan programs to repair and renew U.S. water and wastewater systems.
The water utility leaders were in Washington as delegates of the Water Matters! Fly-In, an annual event hosted by the American Water Works Association. They are taking part in more than 300 meetings with elected representatives over two days.
“The buried water infrastructure that serves our homes and businesses is critical to our public health and safety, to our economy and to the quality of life we enjoy,” said AWWA CEO David LaFrance. “We should not wait until moments of crisis to move forward on important water infrastructure projects.”
AWWA members went to Capitol Hill advocating that Congress:
• Support fully authorized funding -- $35 million -- for the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA).
• Allow WIFIA to more fully realize its potential by removing the cap on WIFIA support of a project.
• Support at least $1.3 billion in funding for the drinking water and $1.3 billion for the wastewater state revolving loan fund programs.
• Remove the annual volume caps for private activity bonds for water infrastructure projects.
Congress passed WIFIA in 2014 to provide communities with low-interest loans for large water projects. To this point, Congress has yet to appropriate money to make loans. “Now is the time for WIFIA to begin making those loans it was designed to make,” said Tracy Mehan, AWWA executive director of government affairs. “And remember, because WIFIA is strictly a loan program, it results in no long-term net cost to the taxpayers.”
Last year, Congress freed WIFIA from a ban on the use of tax-exempt bonds in combination with WIFIA loans. This year, AWWA delegates are encouraging Congress – in the context of reauthorizing the Water Resources and Reform Development Act -- to allow WIFIA to reach its full potential by removing a barrier that allows it to fund only 49 percent of projects.
WIFIA was designed to complement State Revolving Loan funds, making loans to projects that cost $20 million or more. The water utility leaders asked also Congress to fund both the water and wastewater SRF programs at a minimum on $1.3 billion each.
Established in 1881, the American Water Works Association is the largest nonprofit, scientific and educational association dedicated to managing and treating water, the world’s most important resource. With approximately 50,000 members, AWWA provides solutions to improve public health, protect the environment, strengthen the economy and enhance our quality of life.