Vice President, Environmental Affairs and Sustainability, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
September 21, 2021
Across our nation and around the world, water is essential for life. Public health, energy, food, and economic growth all rely on sustainable supplies of clean water. America’s business community, their customers, and employees have been calling on federal policymakers to address the $82 billion annual gaps in water infrastructure funding at all levels of government for years to address our crumbling water infrastructure.
Now, an unprecedented opportunity to make up that gap is within sight. Senate and White House negotiators heeded the call for investment in water infrastructure and included $55 billion for water, wastewater, stormwater, and resilience infrastructure in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which passed the Senate in a 69-30 vote. Highlights of those provisions include:
- Bolstering state revolving funds: Provides more than $23 billion for state drinking water and clean SRFs over five years and lowers the state cost-share from 20% to 10% for the first two.
- Accelerating lead line replacement: Includes $15 billion additional drinking water SRF funding dedicated for lead line replacement.
- Prioritizing emerging contaminants: Offers $4 billion in drinking water SRFs and $1 billion in clean water SRFs for treatment costs for perfluoroalkyl or poly-fluoroalkyl (PFAS) substances. 49% of the funds will be provided as grants or forgivable loans. $5 billion is appropriated for small, disadvantaged communities to address emerging contaminants including PFAS. There is no cost share required and 100% of the funding will be administered to communities as grants.
The package also contains the provisions of S. 914, the Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act. Among other programs, the legislation establishes several resilience initiatives for water systems of all sizes and authorizes an advanced technology innovation grant program and a low-income assistance pilot.
In addition, $8.3 billion is provided for various water storage and resilience infrastructure efforts to respond to the megadrought in the American west.
Finally, there is $1.5 billion in funding for predisaster mitigation programs through FEMA to assist companies and communities prepare ahead of the next crisis. Eligible hazards include addressing challenges posed by floods and droughts, underscoring that complex climate challenges often manifest as water challenges.
Is there more work to do? Of course. But elevating water as a national priority is just commonsense.
This legislation is a solid down payment. The Chamber has long supported building smart, modern, resilient infrastructure. Flexibility, innovation, and collaboration between the public and private sectors will help unlock the potential for transformational solutions to current and future water challenges. And the recovery from the economic and public health crises demands that we get our water infrastructure headed in the right direction.
The investments to modernize our water infrastructure is just one of the reasons why the Chamber strongly supports the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and is urging House leaders to pass the bill without delay.