Legislation introduced in the House of Representatives on April 24 would help local drinking water and wastewater utilities adapt their infrastructure to prepare for the impacts of changing hydrological conditions. The bill is the latest iteration of water utility resilience legislation that AMWA has promoted on Capitol Hill for a number of years.
H.R. 5596, the Water Infrastructure Resiliency and Sustainability Act, would establish a new EPA program dedicated to offering competitive grant assistance to communities to offset the cost of water and wastewater projects undertaken to improve the sustainability of their infrastructure to changing hydrologic conditions and extreme weather, or to study the potential impacts of these factors on their water system. A variety of projects, ranging from water efficiency, new water supply development, infrastructure relocation and green infrastructure initiatives, would be eligible for assistance.
AMWA had previously worked with former Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.) to draft the initial version of the bill, and she sponsored the legislation in each session of Congress until she retired at the end of 2016. Since that time, AMWA has worked with her successor, Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.) to update the proposal and prepare it for introduction in the 115th Congress. Notably, Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) has cosponsored H.R. 5596, the first time a Republican member of Congress has formally endorsed this utility adaptation legislation.
H.R. 5596 closely mirrors earlier versions of the bill but does incorporate several updates. These include expanding eligibility to projects sponsored by interstate and intermunicipal organizations, allowing funds to be used on projects that respond to rising sea levels, increasing the maximum federal project cost share to 75 percent, and ensuring that a private water system that receives funding only uses it on a project that has the support of the affected local government.
AMWA and ten other water and infrastructure sector organizations wrote to Reps. Carbajal and Reed in support of the bill after its introduction, saying it will allow communities to “build resiliency into their infrastructure today, while helping ensure uninterrupted water and wastewater service for decades to come.” Rep. Carbajal also held an event in his district in conjunction with the bill’s debut to highlight the benefits of the bill.
H.R. 5596 is unlikely to advance though Congress this year as an individual bill, but AMWA has encouraged lawmakers to attach it to larger future climate adaptation or water resources legislation.