US Senate panel OKs Water Investment Act

The US Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee has approved the new Water Investment Act, which proposes billions of dollars in funding, in various ways, for safe drinking water projects, wastewater facility improvements, and aid to small communities in the US.

According to WaterTechOnline, the bill authorises US$20 billion for clean water projects, such as wastewater treatment plants, and US$15 billion for safe drinking water projects such as drinking water supply systems. A further US$1 billion a year for five years is also authorised under the bill to help small communities meet the new federal arsenic limit in drinking water.

In February last year, industry, local government and the Environmental Protection Agency published a joint statement calling for as much as US$1 trillion in federal aid for repairing 50-year-old water and sewer pipes across the country (see related story).

The bill also:

  • contains a provision to re-authorise a grant programme at US$250 million per year for five years to remedy sewerage overflows;
  • increases loan subsidies for disadvantaged communities, increases flexibility of water infrastructure loan terms and promotes innovative, non-traditional methods of resolving water quality problems;
  • allows administrators of state revolving funds to extend loan repayments to a disadvantaged community from 20 to 40 years and allows more favourable terms on those loans;
  • revises eligibility under the Clean Water Act to include water conservation, reuse and recycling, and security, along with planning, design and associated pre-construction costs;
  • provides assistance to small wastewater and drinking water facilities;
  • provides incentives for use of non-structural technologies that are often inexpensive and less environmentally harmful, plus the authorisation of a demonstration programme at US$20 million per year over five years to promote innovations in technology and alternative approaches to water quality management and supply; and
  • requires the US Geological Survey to conduct a nationwide assessment that identifies the country’s areas at risk of water shortage or surplus in the next 50 years.
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