US House passes water resources bill lacking key funds
By Jenny Lescohier10 December 2020
A US$9.9-billion bipartisan water resources bill was passed by the US House of Representatives, providing funding to flood damage reduction and ecosystem restoration projects, but some are calling upon Congress to address what they say is a lack of support for local clean water initiatives.
The House passage of the 2020 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) hastens the approval and realization of 46 Army Corps of Engineers projects focused on flood control, environmental restoration and coastal protection. WRDA legislation was successfully enacted in 2014, 2016, 2018 and, if approved by the US Senate, will be again.
“We applaud the House’s passage of this important legislation for the fourth consecutive Congressional session,” states Doug Carlson, chief executive officer of the National Utility Contractors Association (NUCA). “[But] this job is only half finished.”
The proposed 2020 WRDA bill is missing additional support for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF), which includes resources used by American communities to invest in their own water infrastructure projects and safe drinking water initiatives.
The Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) programme is a federal-state partnership to help ensure safe drinking water. Created by the 1996 Amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), the programme provides financial support to water systems and to state safe water programmes.
“It is disappointing Congress was unable to provide needed new funding for public clean water utilities in the final WRDA package, especially given the amazing work these utilities have done on the front lines of public health protection since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic,” Nathan Gardner-Andrews, National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA)’s general counsel and chief advocacy officer, was quoted. “Congress’ inability to ultimately authorise clean water investment that already had bipartisan support will present serious challenges as the public clean water sector struggles … without new support from the federal government.”
Carlson said, “Our members are disappointed these invaluable resources were not reauthorised or even included in this landmark legislation. NUCA and our members call upon Congress to address this shortfall immediately when it reconvenes in January.”