Water leaders drawing attention to infrastructure needs

WIFIA would help address infrastructure issues with little or no long-term cost to the federal taxpayer.

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No one in this industry questions the urgent need for more dollars to address serious infrastructure issues that are plaguing the nation’s water and wastewater systems. Those in the industry know first-hand the pressing need to repair, improve and rebuild many systems, and that collective voice will be heard this week. 

Water utility leaders from across the country will take to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to urge passage of legislation that would create a Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Authority to confront the growing water infrastructure challenge. 

The delegates are part of the Water Matters! Fly In sponsored by the American Water Works Association and the Water Environment Federation. The annual event educates lawmakers on the issues facing drinking water and clean water utilities. 

A recent report from the AWWA concluded that repairing and expanding existing water infrastructure would cost more than $1 trillion over the next 25 years, and wastewater needs are believed to be similar. 

WIFIA would help address those issues by making low-interest federal loans available for large water and wastewater infrastructure projects, with little or no long-term cost to the federal taxpayer. A WIFIA pilot program is already included in the U.S. Senate Water Resources Development Act (S.601), and water leaders are urging introduction of similar legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

WIFIA would have the authority to provide direct loans, loan guarantees and lines of credit for large water infrastructure projects, with a minimum loan size of $20 million, and give state authorities the ability to apply for a WIFIA loan to fund an aggregation of smaller projects. 

In a press release about the event, AWWA Executive Director David LaFrance noted the time is right to confront water infrastructure challenges with innovative solutions. “We are closer than ever to bi-partisan legislation that strikes the right balance between local responsibility and federal assistance,” LaFrance said. “WIFIA would go a long way toward helping local communities address their water infrastructure needs.” 

The bottom line is many communities are in need of help with their infrastructure problems, and this measure will help them fund critical projects. It certainly won’t solve all the nation’s water infrastructure problems, but it’s a good step, and it will cast a light on the importance of speaking out and telling your elected officials that these measures are needed. Let your voices be heard. Our infrastructure, and your customers, depend on it. 

WEF will also be hosting the National Water Infrastructure Summit in D.C. on Tuesday before the fly-in. The event will be streamed live at www.waterforjobs.org/? on April 16 from 9-11 a.m. Central time. 

Additional information about WIFIA can be found at www.wef.org/governmentaffairs/.


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