Last month, we celebrated World Water Day with the global theme “leave no one behind.” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler marked the occasion by highlighting water as “the largest and most immediate environmental and public health issues affecting the world right now.” The U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched the Business Task Force on Water Policy because we agree.
Why we must take action
Water services are vital to creating a thriving economy, creating jobs, supporting high-growth companies and ensuring quality of life; they can help fuel energy, sustain public health and lay critical groundwork to smart cities infrastructure. First-class water services are essential to improve the competitiveness of the U.S. economy and to fuel the investment needs to expand critical economic gains.
Without sustainable, reliable supplies of water, attracting new businesses to communities across America becomes more challenging. Cities, especially small communities, are unable to afford multimillion-dollar wastewater system upgrades to replace aging pipes and treatment systems as revenues are down and maintenance costs are rising.
A solid start
It is going to take innovation and investment to get us on the road to sustaining critical water infrastructure. How will this be done in an era of shrinking budgets?
To begin addressing the $82 billion annual gap in drinking water and wastewater funding at all levels, Congress passed America’s Water Infrastructure Act. As you may know, it contained several key provisions including
$4.4 billion in Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Funds, reauthorization of the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, technical assistance for small systems, a study of intractable small community water system challenges, a new technology innovation fund, and $100 million to repair systems impacted by natural disasters.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture plans to disburse $4 billion during the upcoming year for water and wastewater upgrades in rural communities and Native American lands to fund water management facilities.
Below are policy priorities that will meet American businesses’ water and wastewater infrastructure needs for generations to come and make the U.S. a leader in bringing clean water and sanitation to the world:
- Funding and financing: Promoting increased federal, state, and local investments in infrastructure modernization and mobilizing private capital.
- Regulatory flexibility and efficiency of service: Proposing commonsense, flexible policies to improve the enabling environment for businesses to continue creative and innovative approaches.
- Resilience: Facilitating climate resilient infrastructure through funding and policies to support predisaster mitigation and new technologies.
- Small communities and small business needs: Providing investments and policy solutions specifically focused on the needs of the agricultural sector, small communities, and small businesses, including improving access to rural water and sanitation.
- Technology innovation: Increasing innovation and its adoption by funding the creation of a National Water Infrastructure Test Bed Network, establishing a national program for collaborating and sharing best practices, and promoting exports of water technologies, products, and services.
To be successful, these innovations must leverage and catalyze private sector investment and active involvement. We need to challenge our leaders to solve these critical issues with new technologies, approaches, and systems. It will take engagement with innovation hubs, disruptive technologies, and our best minds to create and fund the next generation of resilient water infrastructure.
The U.S. Chamber stands ready to collaborate across the water sector to make this happen.