Industry Organizations Testify on Water Infrastructure for Senate EPW Committee

March 19, 2021

A breakdown of industry testimonials during the “Examining the Challenges Facing Drinking Water and Waste Water Infrastructure Projects” hearing.

A hearing entitled “Examining the Challenges Facing Drinking Water and Waste Water Infrastructure Projects” shed light on water and wastewater infrastructure issues in the U.S.

Witnesses introduced in the hearing include NACWA, ASDWA, the city of Morgantown, Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) and DC Water.

In the hearing with the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito noted the failure in ensuring tribal and rural networks have the tools they need. 

"Federal, state and local governments must all chip and pay their fair share,” said Capito, calling for increased funding for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure. A bill she and Senator Tom Carper are working on will focus on this increased funding. 

Capito also notes the need to better promote jobs in the water sector. California Senator Alex Padilla noted that Black and Latinx populations are more likely to bear the brunt of water challenges, as well.

In the hearing, NACWA called for substantial funding and to make more funding available in grants, particularly for low-income communities. 

Current past president of ASDWA and Director of Water Quality Division for Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, Shellie Chard, shared ASDWA's perspective. 

"In the wake of this public health crisis, many water systems halted shutoffs,” said Chard, referencing California shut offs accounting for $1 billion in debt for the public. "Without continued federal funding for state and rural systems, we will fail to address public health.”

Chard also called for resilient and adaptable water infrastructure in the future to mitigate the extreme weather events that often challenge these systems. 

U.S. Water Prize winner Senator Cardin and Nathan Ohle discussed that in addition to needing equality of access to funding, that many places can not take advantage of what is out there due to lack of capacity or resources. 

General Manager of the Morgantown Utility Board Michael McNulty spoke on behalf of Morgantown. The city of Morgantown called for grants, loans and loan forgiveness to fix aging infrastructure, as well as resources that should also exist for finding, training and hiring the next generation of workers in the water industry. 

CEO of Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) Nathan Ohle spoke on behalf of RCAP, echoing the sentiments of the other testimonies by asking for low-income assistance programs. According to a survey by RCAP, 43% of the rural systems surveyed have only one operator, leaving those systems/utilities vulnerable.

Watch the hearing here and read full testimonies. 

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Cristina Tuser