Heinrich, Luján Vote For Bipartisan Legislation To Improve America’s Water Infrastructure
WASHINGTON (April 29, 2021) – Today, U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) voted for the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act (DWWIA), bipartisan legislation to strengthen drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, foster economic growth, enhance the health and well-being of families across the nation, and address environmental justice. The bill passed the Senate today by a vote of 89 to 2.
DWWIA 2021 makes significant investments in Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grant programs and revolving loan funds that support the development and maintenance of our nation’s drinking water and wastewater infrastructure. This bill will authorize the investment of more than $35 billion in drinking water and wastewater infrastructure projects across the country that focus on upgrading aging infrastructure, addressing the threat of climate change to water systems, investing in new technologies, and providing assistance for marginalized communities.
“Clean drinking water is a human right. I’m proud to see the Senate pass this historic investment in drinking water and wastewater infrastructure,” said Heinrich. “I was especially focused on securing funding that will help small and underserved communities in New Mexico–including colonias–finally build access to clean water. I’m also pleased that this package includes robust investments in infrastructure in Tribal communities that currently lack access to clean water supplies and wastewater treatment facilities. The bipartisan nature of this legislation gives me hope that these efforts will gain more momentum as we move towards considering President Biden’s American Jobs Plan.”
“Too many New Mexicans lack access to clean drinking water or essential wastewater services, putting their health and well-being at risk. Strengthening and maintaining this infrastructure is crucial for our communities and local economies – from cities like Albuquerque and Las Cruces to our smaller rural and Tribal communities. I’m proud to have voted to provide New Mexico with the resources it needs to invest in critical water and wastewater projects, and I’ll continue working in the Senate to ensure our state receives its fair share of infrastructure investments,” said Luján.
The bill includes nearly $30 billion in funding for the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund (CWSRF) and the Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund (DWSRF) and an additional $6 billion in grant funding. This legislation:
- Prioritizes environmental justice by targeting grant programs and technical assistance to small, disadvantaged, rural, and tribal communities.
- Empowers states with increased funding and program flexibilities to invest in community water projects that address aging infrastructure and improve water quality.
- Tackles lead contamination in drinking water through increased funding for lead pipe replacement and technical assistance.
- Authorizes funding to connect households to water services, install decentralized wastewater systems, and improve sanitation in Alaska rural and Native Villages.
- Supports climate-resilient water projects to address the worsening impacts of climate change on drinking water and wastewater infrastructure.
- Invests in the drinking water and wastewater needs of tribal communities.
- Fosters the development and deployment of emerging technologies that result in cleaner, safer, and more reliable water.
Specifically, the bipartisan Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act of 2021 will:
Invest in Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure
States need serious investment by the federal government to help modernize and maintain their water infrastructure. DWWIA 2021 reauthorizes the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund (CWSRF) at increased levels for the first time since 1987, growing the program to $3.25 billion annually over five years for a total reauthorization of $14.65 billion. It also codifies appropriations language that requires a State to use not less than 10 percent, and up to 30 percent should it chose to do so, of its capitalization grant to provide additional assistance to disadvantaged communities.
The Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund (DWSRF), which expires at the end of 2021, is also reauthorized, and for the first time receives equal funding to the CWSRF.
This $14.65 billion reauthorization will provide critical resources to states to upgrade aging infrastructure and address water quality to provide clean, safe water to more Americans. DWWIA 2021 also increases the minimum set aside states must use to provide additional subsidies to disadvantaged communities from six percent to 12 percent. States are allowed to use up to 35 percent of their total allocation on these communities.
Improve Access to Safe Drinking Water for Environmental Justice Communities
Far too many Americans, especially low-income communities and communities of color, do not have reliable access to safe and clean water. DWWIA 2021 promotes access to clean drinking water and improves water quality monitoring in communities across the country. More than 40 percent of the total authorizations are intended to benefit small, rural, disadvantaged, and tribal communities.
The bill increases funding for the existing Assistance for Small and Disadvantaged Communities grant program and creates an additional competitive grant program for states based on the prevalence of underserved communities. This bill also includes a needs assessment on the prevalence of low-income households that spend a disproportionate amount of income on public drinking water services. Based on that assessment, it creates a pilot grant program to assist low- income households with maintaining access to affordable drinking water and wastewater treatment. This bill also requires EPA to do an analysis of the historical distribution of CWSRF and DWSRF funds to low-income, rural, and minority communities and indigenous peoples in order to improve the distribution of these funds.
DWWIA 2021 authorizes $710 million to directly address the public health crisis of lead contamination in drinking water. Specifically, the bill will:
- Increase the Lead Reduction Grant program to $100 million annually;
- Increase the Voluntary Lead Testing in Schools program to $50 million annually by 2026, for a total investment of $200 million;
- Expand the Small and Disadvantaged Community Grant Program to allow grant funds to be used for the purchase of filters and filtration systems;
- Create a pilot program for municipalities to assess the effectiveness of lead mapping as a tool to identify and replace lead service lines, authorized at $10 million; and
- Reauthorize an emergency fund at EPA for $35 million annually that can be used to address public health emergencies caused by lead in drinking water.
Connect Households to Drinking Water and Wastewater Services
Many low-income communities and communities of color across the U.S. lack access to clean drinking water and basic sewage systems. DWWIA 2021 authorizes $550 million annually in new grant programs for nonprofit organizations and public treatment works to help eligible households connect to existing drinking water or wastewater infrastructure or install or upgrade decentralized wastewater systems. It also includes a $230 million reauthorization for grants to Alaska for the development and construction of public water systems and wastewater systems in rural and Alaska Native Villages, which will improve the health and sanitation conditions of individuals living in those communities.
Help Communities Build Resiliency to Extreme Weather Events
Intensifying droughts, frequent floods, fierce hurricanes, massive wildfires, diminishing snowpack, and depleted groundwater increasingly threaten our nation’s water infrastructure. DWWIA 2021 provides a combined $500 million for water infrastructure resiliency and sustainability grant programs for communities to increase the resiliency or adaptability of water systems to natural hazards, including extreme weather events due to climate change. Communities can use grant funding to assist in the planning, design, construction, implementation, operation, or maintenance of a program or project that increases resilience to natural hazards and extreme weather events, or reduces cybersecurity vulnerabilities. Some examples of resiliency projects include:
- The conservation of water or the enhancement of water-use efficiency;
- The modification or relocation of existing drinking water or wastewater system infrastructure;
- The design or construction of new or modified desalination facilities;
- The enhancement of water supply through the use of watershed management and source water protection;
- The enhancement of energy efficiency or the use and generation of renewable energy; or
- The conservation of water through water reuse measures.
The Drinking Water Infrastructure Resilience and Sustainability program for small and disadvantaged communities is reauthorized at $25 million annually—an investment more than five times larger than the previous authorization. The bill also creates a new program for medium and large systems at an authorization of $50 million annually. Additionally, DWWIA 2021 establishes a new Clean Water Infrastructure Resiliency and Sustainability Program, which for the first time will provide grants to communities of all sizes looking to fortify their wastewater systems from the impacts of climate change. This program is authorized at $25 million annually, for a total investment of $125 million.
Invest in the Water Infrastructure Needs of Tribal Communities
Tribal communities need robust federal investments in their water infrastructure. DWWIA 2021 increases the authorization of the Tribal Drinking Water Program to $50 million annually, for a total of $250 million. It also amends the program to designate that 50 percent of the funds be used by tribes nationally, while the other 50 percent of the funds must be used to fund 50 projects equally divided between the Missouri River Basin, Upper Rio Grande River Basin, the Columbia River Basin, the Lower Colorado River Basin, and the Arkansas-White-Red River Basin. It also amends the Lead Contamination in School Drinking Water grant program to make tribal consortia eligible grant recipients assist tribal education agencies in testing for lead contamination.
To improve and address the wastewater infrastructure needs of tribal communities, DWWIA 2021 allows states to reserve up to two percent of their CWSRF to provide technical assistance to small, rural, and tribal publicly-owned treatment works. It also authorizes $230 million for a program to provide grants to Alaska to improve sanitation in rural and Alaska Native Villages. The bill also amends the Water Infrastructure and Workforce Investment grant program to require federal, state, and local governments to coordinate with tribal governments in the creation of water infrastructure workforce development programs.
Invest in New and Emerging Technology
Tackling pressing issues like climate change, pollution, and our aging infrastructure requires harnessing new technologies. DWWIA 2021 funds the development and deployment of new and existing technologies that reduce emissions, improve energy efficiency, increase coastal resiliency, and improve the affordability of large and small water systems across the country. Specifically, the bill invests a total of $50 million to deploy technologies that are proven to enhance the treatment, monitoring, affordability, efficiency, and safety of drinking water in small and underserved communities.
It also establishes a grant program funded at $15 million annually for state and local governments in coastal areas with significant pollution levels or substantial wastewater infrastructure deficits to encourage information sharing among communities regarding water quality, water infrastructure needs, and water technology.
The bill also creates and authorizes $5 million annually for a grant program for research institutions and institutions of higher education to study new and emerging stormwater control technology. It also establishes an accompanying grant program, authorized at $10 million annually, to deploy that technology in carrying out stormwater control infrastructure projects. Finally, the bill creates a wastewater efficiency grant pilot program that provides $20 million annually to publicly owned treatment works that wish to invest in technology or projects that improve waste-to-energy systems. The total investment in these programs is $300 million over five years.