Water Environment Federation (WEF) Executive Director Jeff Eger joined with other industry leaders today on Capitol Hill to urge members of the U.S. House of Representatives to pass new legislation that would fund water infrastructure needs. Eger’s testimony, presented to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, highlighted the financial challenges facing water facilities around the country and the importance of providing support for these essential services.
During the first of a two-part hearing titled “Review of Innovative Financing Approaches for Community Water Infrastructure Projects," Eger and other water industry leaders helped educate the subcommittee about the critical need for water infrastructure funding and potential financing tools to help local communities pay for the rising costs of providing clean and safe water.
“Local governments are facing the worst financial circumstances in more than a generation,” said Eger. “If we are going to continue to provide essential services and make progress in water quality, we need to reimagine the way we provide local water services. We need to encourage innovation---innovative technologies, innovative management approaches and innovative financing.”
Specifically, WEF and the American Water Works Association voiced support for draft legislation to create the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Authority (WIFIA), a funding mechanism modeled after the highly successful Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act. WIFIA would assist local governments with water infrastructure needs and leverage available federal dollars through low-interest funding that complements the already established State Revolving Fund.
“Innovative financing legislation provides an opportunity to demonstrate once again that clean water is a national priority and that leaders here in Washington are sympathetic to the needs of local governments,” continued Eger. “Introduction and eventual passage of new water infrastructure financing legislation is an important step in recognizing the value of water and the need to support our essential water infrastructure.”
Eger also stressed the critical need to raise awareness about the value and importance of water among the general public. WEF hopes this will be achieved through its soon-to-be launched "Water's Worth It" campaign. “Over time we will be working with the other organizations at this table—and we hope with you—to help explain the value of water.”
The second of the two-part hearing is expected sometime in March.