House Subcommittee Increases Authorization For Local Water Programs

Additional funds for water infrastructure may flow down to counties from Congress, reports Route Fifty. Last week the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Environment Subcommittee voted to reauthorize funding for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund program, at a level of $8 billion for the five-year period between fiscal years 2018 and 2022 – significantly higher than previous authorizations. The bill is the result of bipartisan compromise, according to U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko of New York, the top Democrat on the subcommittee.

From  Route Fifty:

Congress established the revolving fund program in the mid-1990s. Through it, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provides money states can use to extend low-interest loans for drinking water projects—specifically those needed to comply with federal drinking water regulations and to meet health goals in the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Authorization expired for the program in 2003. At that time, funding for it was authorized at up to $1 billion annually. Lawmakers have continued to provide money for the program in the years since, with levels generally in the $800 million to $900 million range in recent years.

The new House legislation would raise the annual authorization level gradually from $1.2 billion in fiscal 2018, to $2 billion in 2022.

Environmental Protection Agency estimates indicate that public water systems in the U.S. need to invest $384 billion in infrastructure improvements over 20 years to ensure the delivery of safe drinking water, according to a Congressional Research Service report from May.

A draft House appropriations bill for the upcoming 2018 fiscal year includes about $863 million for the drinking water revolving fund.

Tonko stressed that, in his view, the federal government has a responsibility to assist local drinking water systems with upgrades.

“We cannot fool ourselves into thinking local governments can do this on their own,” he said.

Recent Conduit Street coverage: Water Companies Are Billions Short to Fix Country’s Aging Water Systems