Water utility leaders go to Congress to invite co-sponsors for WIFIA bill
U.S. Congressman Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio) recently urged water utility leaders to ask their Congressional representatives to co-sponsor draft legislation that would create a federal Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Authority (WIFIA).
Speaking before more than 160 water utility leaders from the American Water Works Association (AWWA) and the Water Environment Federation (WEF), Rep. Gibbs said WIFIA would do more to address water infrastructure needs at a lower cost to utilities and the consumers they serve.
"Safe, reliable water systems are too often taken for granted," said Gibbs, chair of the U.S. House Subcommittee for Water Resources and Environment, which is reviewing the draft WIFIA legislation. "A Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Authority would help Americans meet our enormous water infrastructure challenge without adding to the long-term federal deficit. WIFIA will help America address more water infrastructure needs at a lower cost to water consumers."
Rep. Gibbs stressed that the bill would complement and supplement existing water infrastructure funding mechanisms such as State Revolving Funds (SRFs). According to an AWWA report issued Feb. 27, costs will exceed $1T over the next 25 years to meet repair and expand drinking water infrastructure. The report, titled "Buried No Longer: Confronting America's Water Infrastructure Challenge," observed that wastewater costs are thought to be similar.
Leaders from both AWWA and WEF testified Feb. 28 before the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment in support of draft WIFIA legislation, and a second hearing is scheduled for March 21. The mechanism would access U.S. Treasury funds to provide low-interest loans, loan guarantees, or other credit support to local communities. Loan repayments – with interest – and guarantee fees would flow back to WIFIA and into the Treasury – again, with interest. Eligible water infrastructure projects would include water, wastewater, and wet weather related projects.
The water leaders are gathered in Arlington, Virginia, this week at the AWWA/WEF Water Matters! Fly In event. Following a morning briefing on WIFIA and the comments from Rep. Gibbs, the utility representatives visited Capitol Hill for more than 400 meetings with their national legislators and staff.
The U.S. Department of Commerce has estimated that every dollar spent on water infrastructure generates $2.62 in the private economy. For every job added to the water workforce, about 3.68 jobs are added nationally.
Founded in 1928, the Water Environment Federation (WEF) is a not-for-profit technical and educational organization of 36,000 individual members and 75 affiliated Member Associations representing water quality professionals around the world. WEF members, Member Associations and staff proudly work to achieve our mission to provide bold leadership, champion innovation, connect water professionals, and leverage knowledge to support clean and safe water worldwide. For more information, visit www.wef.org
AWWA is the authoritative resource for knowledge, information, and advocacy to improve the quality and supply of water in North America and beyond. AWWA is the largest organization of water professionals in the world. AWWA advances public health, safety and welfare by uniting the efforts of the full spectrum of the entire water community. Through our collective strength we become better stewards of water for the greatest good of the people and the environment. For more information, visit www.awwa.org