Water Utility Council Chair Kurt Vause presented the association’s suggestions
In a U.S. House subcommittee hearing, the American Water Works Assn. (AWWA) testified that updates to the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) are overdue and necessary to assist communities with water infrastructure and compliance challenges. Speaking before the U.S. House Subcommittee on the Environment during Infrastructure Week, Water Utility Council Chair Kurt Vause presented AWWA’s suggestions related to funding, utility management and regulatory compliance.
“An updating of the 1996 Amendments to the SDWA is overdue,” said Vause, special projects director at Anchorage Water & Wastewater Utility in Anchorage, Alaska. “Our 2012 report, ‘Buried No Longer: Confronting America’s Water Infrastructure Challenge’ pointed out that this nation must spend $1 trillion on drinking water infrastructure in the next 25 years to maintain our current levels of service.”
Vause, speaking on behalf of AWWA’s 50,000 members, spoke on the need to improve the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) to make it easier to use to help finance projects of consolidation for efficiency of operations and regulatory compliance. He also encouraged improved tracking of SRF capitalization grants to help that program become more efficient, and flexibility in repayment of SRF loans to assist particularly distressed communities.
“To some communities, the terms of repayment will necessarily lead to a limited use of SRF financing of critical infrastructure needs,” Vause said.
Vause also encouraged Congress to provide fully authorized appropriations of $45 million for the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) in FY2018. WIFIA is a promising new tool in repairing and replacing the nation’s aging water and wastewater infrastructure.
WIFIA lowers the cost of large water infrastructure projects by providing low-interest, long-term federal loans to communities. Congress has already appropriated $30 million total for the program but, as Vause noted, “A fully authorized FY2018 WIFIA would support nearly $3 billion in needed infrastructure investment.”
Vause spoke with committee members at length about how asset management can serve utilities and their customers to improve performance and the use of finite resources. To help states and communities manage regulatory obligations under all environmental statutes, Vause encouraged Congress to bring the drinking water sector into an integrated planning process, as is being discussed for the wastewater sector.
“AWWA recommends Congress include drinking water requirements contained with the 1996 amendments of SDWA in any integrated planning framework to give communities across the country the flexibility to more effectively meet their regulatory obligations, while also better protecting public health,” Vause said.
Former AWWA President John Donahue also testified before the U.S. House Subcommittee on the Environment in March to encourage Congress to support water infrastructure investment.