Water Infrastructure to Receive Billions from INVEST Act

On Thursday, July 1, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the INVEST Act, H.R. 3684, a $715 billion proposal that includes the text of H.R. 1915, the Water Quality Protection and Job Creation Act of 2021.

H.R. 1915 was included as part of Division H of the INVEST Act. The vote on final passage was 221-201, largely along party lines.

This legislation helps address the need to increase funding for water infrastructure, address water workforce development needs, improve resilience to climate change, increase system sustainability, and improve environmental equity for all Americans.

This legislation will substantially increase funding levels for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) program over the next 5 years by providing $8 billion per year. It also will expand the additional subsidization to help financially disadvantaged communities. In addition, the legislation increases the Green Project Reserve, because there remains considerable nationwide need and great potential to implement more green infrastructure in financially disadvantaged communities, while encouraging energy-efficiency and recovery projects at Water Resource Recovery Facilities.

The legislation also gives State SRF programs the authority to use up to 1 percent of the federal capitalization grant for water workforce development. This will significantly help utilities and states work together to address current and looming water workforce shortages. The municipal drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater management sectors are facing a massive workforce replacement need that offers significant job growth potential.

In addition, the legislation includes provisions to provide increased funding through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Sewer Overflow & Stormwater Reuse Municipal Grants program by providing $400 million per year for five years in grants. The expansion of this program would help communities resolve combined sewer overflow and municipal stormwater problems, which disproportionately affect lower-income, historically disadvantaged communities.

The bill also:

  • Authorizes $2.5 billion in grants for states to implement state water pollution control programs
  • Provides $1 billion for clean water pilot programs for watershed-based efforts to address wet weather discharges, promote stormwater best practices, undertake integrated water resource management, and increase climate resiliency
  • Authorizes $1 billion in grants for alternative water source projects, such as wastewater or stormwater reuse, to augment the existing water supplies
  • Provides $1 billion in Clean Water Act grants to municipalities to implement treatment standards for PFAS and other emerging contaminants

When speaking of the bill, Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said the legislation stems from the simple concept that “water is a basic, fundamental human right.”

“If you don’t make these investments—whether it’s in transportation, or whether it’s water—then you just get behind and everything falls apart,” he said. “The bottom line is that the states and the towns need help.”

The Senate passed S. 914, the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act, in April, which provides $35 billion over 5 years. The House and Senate will now begin negotiating a final agreement based on the two bills, which will be possibly included in a major infrastructure package later this year.

Source: Water Environment Federation (WEF)

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