Water leaders call for reinvestment in water infrastructure

In April, nearly 200 water leaders from the private and public sector joined together in Washington, DC, as part of the Water Matters! Fly In, sponsored by the American Water Works Association and the Water Environment Federation urging Congress to vote for legislation that addresses the nation’s water infrastructure and confronts mounting affordability concerns.

The water utility leaders asked members of Congress to support the Senate Water Resources Development Act (S.601), which would include a provision creating a Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Authority. WIFIA, modeled after a successful program in the transportation sector, would make low-interest federal loans available for large water, wastewater and storm water projects and help to create jobs. The delegates also encouraged the introduction of WIFIA legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“We are here today as a united water community,” said AWWA Public Affairs Council Chair, Jeanne Bailey. “Our water, wastewater and storm water systems were built by previous generations, and we need innovative solutions to ensure their continued success for future generations.”

The free summit raised awareness about the need for resilient water infrastructure and how reinvestment in water creates jobs, drives innovation and safeguards public health. At the same time, Matthew Millea, Deputy County Executive for Physical Services for the County of Onondaga (NY) sought additional federal funding for clean water projects as he testified before the House Interior and Environment Subcommittee on Appropriations.

Summit Moderator John R. Bigelow, senior vice president of Business Services for American Water, opened the discussion by offering some perspective on the sheer vastness of this largely invisible network of pipes and tunnels—nearly 1.4 million miles span across the U.S., which is eight times the length of the U.S. highway system—its reliability and need for attention. Much of the U.S. infrastructure was built more than a century ago and currently around 10 percent of these systems are at the end of their service life. If not addressed by 2020, this number could rise to 44 percent.

“In an age of fiscal cliffs, credit downgrading and record deficits, many are skeptical about the timing of pushing for aggressive investment in water infrastructure,” said WEF President Cordell Samuels. “More than 40 years of data clearly shows this is a false choice. Water infrastructure is the backbone of our economy and investment creates and preserves long-term quality jobs. So the question is not why would we invest in these tough economic times but rather why would we not?”

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