Last summer, the Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Assn. (WWEMA) surveyed our membership and asked them: “What keeps you up at night?”
Their response, in no particular order: (1) Funding. (2) Funding. (3) Funding.
Four out of five respondents named funding of water and wastewater projects their top concern. And no wonder. We all know the need for upgrades and new facilities in our industry is great. What we don’t know is when or if they will happen, because these projects are expensive and no one is quite sure where the money will come from. Everyone in the water industry knows this. We’ve been living it for the past several years.
Finally, though, we have some reason for optimism: This week, two members of Congress acted to address the funding issue, and if they are successful, it could mean $50 billion in investment in water and wastewater projects over the next 10 years.
On March 13, Reps. Jimmy Duncan (R-Tenn.) and Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) introduced H.R. 4237, legislation that would lift the caps on private activity bonds (PABs) for water and wastewater infrastructure projects, and a similar bill is expected to be introduced in the Senate in the coming days.
PABs are a type of municipal bond and are a form of tax-exempt financing that encourage state and local governments to leverage private capital to fund critical infrastructure projects. Currently the federal government subjects the states to volume caps on PABs of $95 per capita or $254.56 million, whichever is greater. Projects related to airports, high-speed rail, or solid waste disposal are exempt from those caps, but water and wastewater projects are not.
Reps. Duncan and Pascrell recognize the critical nature of water and wastewater infrastructure needs and have drafted legislation that would lift the PAB volume caps for our industry. They are now in the process of recruiting co-sponsors for their bill and building support for it among their colleagues in Congress.
WWEMA, as a member of the Sustainable Water Infrastructure Coalition, is working to support the bill, and we encourage everyone in our industry—manufacturers, utilities, industry—to do the same. Write or call your Congressional representatives and urge them to support this important legislation. Remind them that funding infrastructure projects will ensure safe, clean water and thus public health for years to come. And doing it now rather than waiting until there are massive systemic problems will ultimately save communities billions of dollars.
For manufacturers and rep companies who are interested in learning more about this legislation and its potential impact on their businesses, the WWEMA Washington Forum, April 15 to 17 at the Grand Hyatt Capitol Hill, will include a presentation by Bruce Morgan, principal at Water Quality Associates, on the work SWIC is doing to support H.R. 4237. The event is open to both members and non-members. A complete program and registration can be found at http://wwema.org/washingtonforum.php.
Vanessa M. Leiby is executive director of the Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Assn., a Washington, D.C.-based trade organization that has represented the interests of manufacturers serving the water supply and wastewater treatment industry since 1908. Leiby can be reached at [email protected].