Water groups detail agenda to Obama

AWWA has joined with the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, National Association of Water Companies and the National Rural Water Association in developing "A National Agenda for Drinking Water" to assist President-Elect Barack Obama and his incoming administration...

Nov. 18, 2008 -- AWWA has joined with the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, National Association of Water Companies and the National Rural Water Association in developing "A National Agenda for Drinking Water" to assist President-Elect Barack Obama and his incoming administration.

The report addresses topics including economic stimulus, long-term infrastructure investment, drinking water standards, source water protection, climate change, and system security.

It specifically asks for "dedicated funding" for water infrastructure in any economic stimulus package, "dispersed in such a way as to be quickly accessed by utility managers, with a minimum of delay and 'red tape.'" It calls the $1 billion included in the earlier stimulus package "a good start," but says that "much more money is needed" to fund the wide range of projects nationwide that have been affected by the credit crisis. It advocates equal funding for drinking water and wastewater projects.

Recommendations for longer-term infrastructure investment include low- or no-interest loans and tax incentives, as well as grants in some instances. The report asks for

• the Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund and USDA Rural Water Loan and Grant programs to be funded at a minimum of $1 billion annually;
• federal assistance programs to help utilities become economically self-sustaining; and
• new mechanisms for innovative approaches to capital, such as "some form of infrastructure bank.

It flatly rejects "any proposal" of a federal water tax, charge, or levy against either utilities or customers.

On the standards front, the report advocates "the deliberative, science-based" processes of the Safe Drinking Water Act and calls for the administration to "reject legislative prescriptions for decisions that should be made through the regulatory process."

Emerging contaminants are addressed in the section on source water protection, which the report recommends be addressed through more research and revisions to the Clean Water Act where necessary. It asks that USEPA's carbon-sequestration efforts be made to protect drinking water sources "over the very long run," and for USDA activities to protect source water to be "fully utilized."

The impact of climate change on drinking water resources should be addressed with dedicated funding for research and to help utilities adapt to the changing demands climate change may bring, the paper recommends.

Finally, the report says that water system security measures should "not force water utilities to change processes" in favor of "what some may perceive are 'inherently safer technologies;'" that they should not enable federal officials to order water utilities to shut down; and that water utilities not be subject to regulation by multiple federal agencies. It also asks for protection of "sensitive data regarding water utilities" and that any new federal security mandates be accompanied by federal financial assistance.

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