A comprehensive water justice bill was introduced in both chambers of Congress to address water access, safety and affordability in the country on Feb. 25.
Also known as the Water Affordability, Transparency, Equity and Reliability (WATER) Act, the legislation was introduced to the U.S. Senate by Senator Bernie Sanders and to the U.S. House of Representatives by Congress Members Brenda Lawrence and Ro Khanna, reported Common Dreams Newscenter.
"Decades of federal underinvestment has left many communities, particularly low-income and minority neighborhoods, with leaky and contaminated water systems,” said Rep. Khanna in the Common Dreams press release. “It's past time that we ensure everyone in this country has access to the most basic human need: clean drinking water. I'm proud to cosponsor this important legislation.”
According to the WATER Act, the bill provides funding for several programs related to controlling water pollution and protecting drinking water. It also revises requirements concerning the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) and the Drinking Water SRF.
The bill makes permanent a grant program for household water well systems in rural areas and increases the amount of appropriations for grant programs. This includes a program that awards grants to prevent lead from contaminating drinking water fountains in schools and day care facilities, according to the bill’s language.
In the report by Common Dreams, the WATER Act would also provide a $35 billion annual trust fund for urgently-needed drinking water and sewer infrastructure improvements; would address water contamination related to lead and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS); would direct grants to low-income communities to stem water shutoffs due to unaffordable bills; and would create up to one million well-paying jobs per year.
According to Common Dreams, the bill is backed by 74 other original cosponsors and 540 advocacy, labor and faith-based organizations from almost every state in the U.S.