ASDWA Testifies on Drinking Water Reinvestment

On Thursday, March 16, Randy Ellingboe, ASDWA’s President and Manager of the Drinking Water Section at the Minnesota Department of Health, testified on the critical funding needs facing the drinking water community.  The hearing, Reinvestment and Rehabilitation of the Nation’s Drinking Water System, was held by the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Environment Subcommittee and brought together witnesses from ASDWA, AMWA, AWWA, ASCE, NAWC, and NRDC to share their perspectives.
All witnesses agreed on the significant needs for increased Federal funding for water infrastructure.  When asked, they all replied “yes” to Chairman Shimkus (R-IL) when he asked if they supported DWSRF reauthorization, a greater focus on small system needs, the need for more funding for resiliency and security, and better financing options for borrowers.  In their testimony, the witnesses all stated their support for the DWSRF as a key funding mechanism and several also spoke about the anticipated positive role of WIFIA funding.  Most agreed that a doubling of the DWSRF funding would be very useful and one witness even called for tripling the capitalization grant.  Several also spoke about the need to fully fund WIFIA.  Other requests were made to support various initiatives such as eliminating the cap on private activity bonds, preserving the ability to use tax exempt bonds, providing greater information sharing and training in cyber security, adding ‘safe harbor’ provisions for water system partnership efforts, and the need to better address nutrients.
During his testimony, Ellingboe spoke about the role state primacy agencies play in ensuring that public health is protected through oversight, partnership, and collaboration with the 151,000 public water systems in the US today.  Ellingboe described three programs that form the core of public health protection for drinking water – the Public Water Supply Supervision (PWSS) program that supports compliance efforts under the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) that funds drinking water projects to support water quality and quantity needs, and the Setasides afforded by the DWSRF that are used to support critical efforts in areas such as source water protection, training and certification for operators, enhancing the technical, managerial, and financial capabilities of smaller systems.  When taken together, Ellingboe said, these programs allow the people of the United States to know that they can have confidence in the availability and quality of the water they drink every day.  Elllingboe went on to speak in greater detail about each of the key programs, their value to the water community, and the need for increased funding.  Click HERE to read his complete testimony or watch a video of the Hearing below. For further information, visit the House E&C Committee webpage.

Although no specific next steps were identified by the Subcommittee, ASDWA expects that further action on infrastructure funding needs will be forthcoming and that legislative measures will be introduced that address the needs of the drinking water community.  The President has talked about a $1 trillion infrastructure vehicle, but it’s not clear how this initiative might be funded.  Drinking water infrastructure should certainly be a part of that initiative.