Federal Bill Pitched To Water Utilities
By Sara Jerome
Water utilities would benefit from legislation under review in the Senate, according to groups working in support of those measures.
Way back before the government shutdown, Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M, was putting in time with the water industry, introducing legislation heavily focused on water issues.
His legislation would touch water utilities on various fronts.
For starters, it would create smart water meter pilot projects. This project "would help water utilities, which devote as much as 60 percent of their operating costs to energy, and save customers money," according to Udall's office.
The legislation would also establish a fund to dole out grants to help water utilities invest in water-efficiency and reuse. And the legislation would authorize an expansion of the EPA's WaterSense program, which establishes public-private partnerships designed to conserve water.
Udall is familiar with water issues because he hails from a region that recently was caught "in the grasp of an unprecedented drought," according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
Udall claims support in his endeavor from the water sector.
"We have an impressive and growing number of allies in this effort. We're working with the major water utility associations, with the US Council of Mayors, with DOE and EPA and companies like GE, Intel, IBM and American Water," he said in a recent speech at a water conference.
Udall discussed the energy-water nexus and non-revenue water issue in his floor remarks about his proposed legislation (video available here).
"Water and wastewater utilities are typically the largest consumers of energy in towns and cities, often accounting for 30 to 40 percent of total energy consumed. As ratepayers, we all pay those bills," he said.
He pointed to "huge amounts of water, as much as 6 billion gallons per year" that is lost within the system.
"That is enough water to serve 10 of the largest cities in this country - or the entire state of California," he said. "To continue this practice while the Southwest and other regions are facing extreme drought is ridiculous, and in some of our communities it's downright dangerous."
Udall introduced the legislation as amendments to energy legislation moving through the Senate. Water is not a down-the-line partisan issue, and members often vote by region. But given the current state of congressional dysfunction, the bill has, of course, been caught up in partisan bickering.
National Journal explained the holdup: Sen. David Vitter, R-LA, "has effectively taken hostage the Senate's energy-efficiency bill, stalling its progress as he insists on a vote on his amendment to weaken the Affordable Care Act."
For more on the energy-water nexus from Water Online, check here.
Image credit: "Water utility in western California City, California," © 2012 craigdietrich, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en