Drinking water professionals from across the U.S. gathered in Washington, D.C., March 29 and 30 to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the American Water Works Association (AWWA) and bring critical water issues to the attention of lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
The primary topics to be addressed to Congressional lawmakers include vital investments in the drinking water infrastructure, the security of water utilities, and the need for Congress to allocate additional research funds to further help water utilities safeguard the public health. The delegation of over 130 water professionals will meet with nearly 400 Congressional offices, as well as officials in the Bush administration.
As the AWWA marks its 125th anniversary, it is natural to reflect on the tremendous progress that s been made in protecting the public health and providing safe, reliable water to all people, said Jack Hoffbuhr, executive director of AWWA. But our business in Washington this week is not only to look back, but to inform our elected officials of what needs to be done to move forward to improve our water infrastructure, ensure the security of our water facilities, and continue the valuable research that will help water professionals in their important work.
The delegates will urge members of Congress to:
Pass the Water Infrastructure Financing Act. This bipartisan legislation would expand and modernize both the water and wastewater State Revolving Loan Fund (SRF) programs and increase appropriations for the drinking water state revolving fund to a cumulative $15 billion through FY 2010 and for the clean water SRF to $20 billion over the same period.
Address chemical facility security concerns. The security of water treatment facilities is of considerable concern to water professionals. More than 8,000 drinking water utilities have completed vulnerability assessments (VAs) and emergency response plans. It is vital that the sensitive information found in the VAs be maintained in a secure location; the delegation will urge that VAs not be sent to state and or federal authorities for that reason. Congress must also ensure that future legislation regarding utility security is effective and not duplicative or inconsistent with existing law.
Appropriate adequate funds for drinking water programs. Federal funds are utilized for research and development in such critical areas as emerging contaminants, enhanced security and information sharing, infrastructure renewal, and new technologies such as desalination. The delegation will urge Congress to not only reverse past cuts to these programs, but to allocate additional funds to better help water professionals continue this valuable work.
In addition to individual meetings with members of Congress, the delegation will be addressed by Stephen Johnson, U.S. EPA administrator, on Thursday, March 30.
We look forward to a productive exchange of views with our lawmakers, said Hoffbuhr. The issues that we are bringing to the table affect every resident of this country and will have a lasting impact on the public health and safety.