WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chairman of the Senate Water and Wildlife Subcommittee, has introduced legislation that will allow local communities to improve their aging water infrastructure, helping to ensure clean, safe water for Americans, creating jobs and adapting to changing hydrological conditions. Nevada Senator Harry Reid and Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, joined Senator Cardin in introducing the Water Infrastructure Resiliency and Sustainability Act of 2011 (S. 1669).
“It is no secret that America’s current water infrastructure is in poor condition. We need to return to a time when all Americans can turn on their tap and expect clean, healthy water for them and their families. Businesses need the reliability of adequate infrastructure to operate and even grow their operations. Congress has stepped up in the past to assist communities in fixing aging water infrastructure systems and we now must make more of these public investments a priority,” said Senator Cardin. “The Water Infrastructure Resiliency and Sustainability Act aims to help local communities meet the challenges of upgrading water infrastructure systems while creating jobs throughout the economy today, while helping water and wastewater systems make improvements to keep water clean and safe for tomorrow.”
“It’s vital that we continue to conserve and sustain Nevada’s limited water supplies,” said Senator Reid. “We must also prepare for the future by investing in measures to address drought, flooding, and decaying infrastructure. This legislation will allow communities in my state to make their water systems stronger and more resilient through efficiency, water reuse, modifying or building new systems, and better water management practices.”
Senator Boxer said: “In my home state of California, we are facing some of the nation’s most critical water resources needs. This legislation will help ensure that our children and families have access to clean, safe drinking water, while also putting people to work fixing our nation’s aging infrastructure.”
A healthy water infrastructure is as important to America’s economy as paved roads and sturdy bridges. The U.S. Conference of Mayors has found that for every dollar invested in water infrastructure, the Gross Domestic Product is increased to more than $6. The Department of Commerce has found that that same dollar yields close to $3 worth of economic output in other industries. Every job created in local water and sewer industries creates close to four jobs elsewhere in the national economy.
S. 1669 directs the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish a Water Infrastructure Resiliency and Sustainability (WIRS) program. Grants would be awarded to eligible water systems to make the necessary upgrades. Communities across the country would be able to compete for federal matching funds, funds which in turn would help finance projects to help communities overcome these threats.
Improving water conservation, adjustments to current infrastructure systems, and funding programs to stabilize communities’ existing water supply are all projects WIRS grants would fund. Under the bill’s requirements, WIRS would never grant more than 50 percent of any project’s cost, ensuring cooperation between local communities and the federal government. The legislation directs EPA to award funds that use new and innovative ideas as often as possible.