United States Congress Urged to Spur Water Infrastructure Renewal
More than 130 water utility professionals from 47 states visited their members of Congress in April to urge funding for critical loan programs to repair and renew U.S. water and wastewater systems.
The water utility leaders were in Washington as delegates of the Water Matters! Fly-In, an annual event hosted by the American Water Works Association.
AWWA members went to Capitol Hill advocating that Congress:
• Support fully authorized funding -- $35 million -- for the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA).
• Allow WIFIA to more fully realize its potential by removing the cap on WIFIA support of a project.
• Support at least $1.3 billion in funding for the drinking water and $1.3 billion for the wastewater state revolving loan fund programs.
• Remove the annual volume caps for private activity bonds for water infrastructure projects.
Congress passed WIFIA in 2014 to provide communities with low-interest loans for large water projects. To this point, Congress has yet to appropriate money to make loans. “Now is the time for WIFIA to begin making those loans it was designed to make,” said Tracy Mehan, AWWA executive director of government affairs. “And remember, because WIFIA is strictly a loan program, it results in no long-term net cost to the taxpayers.”
Last year, Congress freed WIFIA from a ban on the use of tax-exempt bonds in combination with WIFIA loans. This year, AWWA delegates are encouraging Congress – in the context of reauthorizing the Water Resources and Reform Development Act -- to allow WIFIA to reach its full potential by removing a barrier that allows it to fund only 49 percent of projects.
WIFIA was designed to complement State Revolving Loan funds, making loans to projects that cost $20 million or more. The water utility leaders asked also Congress to fund both the water and wastewater SRF programs at a minimum on $1.3 billion each.