(Washington, DC) – American Rivers today applauded the Senate introduction of the Water Infrastructure Financing Act, a bill the nation’s leading river conservation organization says is an important step toward bringing America’s water infrastructure into the 21st century, despite falling short in key areas. American Rivers praised senators Ben Cardin (D-MD), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), James Inhofe (R-OK), and Mike Crapo (R-ID) for introducing the bill, which authorizes $39 billion to help pay for critical water infrastructure needs to reduce stormwater and wastewater pollution across the country and also funds critical drinking water needs. A similar bill passed the House earlier this year.
“The bill isn’t perfect, but it is a great start,” said Katherine Baer, senior director for clean water at American Rivers. “Clean water is the lifeblood of our communities, yet our nation’s water infrastructure is seriously outdated and global warming will make the situation worse. This bill is an important step toward protecting rivers and streams from pollution and making sure our communities have clean drinking water.”
American Rivers has fought for clean water for decades, and recently was instrumental in securing over $6 billion in federal economic recovery funds for clean water and green infrastructure.
Since its inception in 1987, the Clean Water State Revolving Fund has provided $68 billion to over 20,000 projects, serving almost 95 million people. However, funding for this successful national program has not kept pace with the serious threat sewage contamination and polluted stormwater runoff pose, nor has the program been updated to fund sustainable and cost-effective 21st century infrastructure.
The introduced bill includes new financial incentives for states and municipalities to fund sustainable and cost-effective 21st century green infrastructure and water efficiency, but unfortunately does not include a dedicated set-aside for these innovative approaches as provided under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the stimulus bill signed by the President in February.
“While this bill includes some good incentives, it falls short of the progress American Rivers helped achieve in the federal economic recovery package,” said Baer. “States across the country are already set up to fund green projects and demand for funding well outstrips supply in a number of states.”
Green infrastructure approaches to clean water management include using rooftop vegetation to control stormwater and reduce energy use, restoring wetlands to retain floodwater, installing permeable pavement to mimic the way water should naturally flow over the land, and using potable water more efficiently. Such smart infrastructure approaches have far-reaching benefits – they save money, reduce stormwater runoff and sewage overflows, recharge drinking water supplies, and create appealing natural areas for community enjoyment.
“Investments in green solutions to our water infrastructure problems will create jobs, save money, and protect public health and safety,” said Baer.
EPA’s WaterSense program
The introduced Senate bill also authorizes the WaterSense Program at EPA, a voluntary product labeling program that sets standards for water-efficient products like plumbing fixtures and appliances and allows manufacturers to certify their products under the WaterSense label. Similar to the successful EnergyStar program, WaterSense has the potential to save huge amounts of drinking water and reduce energy used to move and treat water. American Rivers has been an active partner with the WaterSense program, serving as one of only two non-profit environmental organizations on its founding steering committee.
"We are very pleased to see strong support for the WaterSense program. Promoting more efficient products saves water and energy and also creates good jobs for manufacturers, plumbers and other trades," said Jenny Hoffner, Director for Water Efficiency at American Rivers.
While the introduced legislation includes important funding for sewer overflow grants and monitoring for sewer overflows, it does not include the detailed provisions in the Sewage Overflow Community Right to Know Act (S. 937) introduced by Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ). These right-to-know provisions require public notification when a sewer spill has the potential to affect public health and are part of the House-passed bill.
“American Rivers looks forward to seeing this legislation move forward and to working with the Senate to ensure dedicated funding for green infrastructure and water efficiency and public notification for sewage overflows,” said Baer.
American Rivers is the leading organization working to protect and restore the nation’s rivers and streams. Rivers connect us to each other, nature, and future generations. Since 1973, American Rivers has fought to preserve these connections, helping protect and restore more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and the annual release of America’s Most Endangered Rivers®.
Headquartered in Washington, DC, American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 100,000 supporters, members, and volunteers nationwide. Visit www.americanrivers.org, www.facebook.com/americanrivers and www.twitter.com/americanrivers.