Overview of water provisions. In total, the Senate infrastructure bill includes $55 billion in new spending for water and wastewater programs and projects. This funding includes $23.4 billion for the Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving Funds (SRFs) and $15 billion specifically for lead service line replacement distributed through the Drinking Water SRF.
While POU and POE filters are eligible for Drinking Water SRF funding if they are owned and maintained by a public water system and are used as a compliance treatment technology, the replacement of used filter cartridges are considered operating and maintenance costs and are not eligible for SRF funds. For more information on Drinking Water SRF project eligibility, US EPA has provided a comprehensive eligibility document. The bill also includes $10 billion to address per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance (PFAS) contamination, with $5 billion being distributed through the SRFs and $5 billion going to the small and disadvantaged community grant program.
Water provisions affecting WQA members. The infrastructure package also includes a significant number of water policy provisions, the majority of which come from S.914 – The Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act of 2021. The text of that original bill can be found here. Included below are the most relevant sections of the Senate infrastructure package to WQA and its members.
Assistance for small and disadvantaged communities. The provision of the bill with the most direct impact on WQA members is a change to US EPA’s Assistance for Small and Disadvantaged Communities Program. This program provides grants to disadvantaged communities or communities with a population of under 10,000 that lack household drinking water or wastewater services or that are served by a public water system that violates or exceeds a requirement of the national primary drinking water regulations.
The Senate infrastructure package would modify this program to allow grant funds to be used to purchase POU and POE filtration systems certified to remove contaminants of concern and to provide information regarding proper filtration use and maintenance. The Senate package would authorize the program for $70 million in fiscal year 2022, $80 million in fiscal year 2023, $100 million in fiscal year 2024, $120 million in fiscal year 2025, and $140 million in fiscal year 2026. And as mentioned above, the bill would also authorize and appropriate approximately $5 billion to the program specifically for remediation of PFAS contamination in drinking water. Additional information on the Assistance for Small and Disadvantaged Communities Program can be found here.
Lead reduction grant programs. The Senate package would reauthorize US EPA’s lead reduction project grants for five years and authorizes $100 million annually for that program through 2026. The program is intended for lead service line replacement, but a provision in the Senate bill requires that eligible grant applicants demonstrate that they have considered feasible alternatives to lead service line replacement for reducing lead levels in drinking water. While this provision primarily suggests corrosion control as the alternative, applicants may choose to evaluate the feasibility of filters.
Lead contamination at schools. The Senate package would increase the authorization for the Voluntary School and Childcare Lead Testing Grant Program. If the bill is passed into law, the program would receive $30 million for fiscal year 2022, $35 million for fiscal year 2023, $40 million for fiscal year 2024, $45 million for fiscal year 2025 and $50 million for fiscal year 2026.
Advanced drinking water technologies. The package would create a new grant program for public water systems that serve a population of 100,000 or less or service a disadvantaged community. The new program is designed to deploy new drinking water infrastructure technology that is demonstrated to improve the treatment, monitoring, affordability, efficiency, and safety of drinking water. The program is authorized with $50 million dollars over five years.
US Water Alliance Response
Scott Berry, Director of Policy and Government Affairs, released the following statement on behalf of the US Water Alliance. “The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is a significant step towards reversing the investment gap between what our nation’s water systems need to function and what is annually spent on water. The US Water Alliance is very pleased to see this historic investment in our nation’s water infrastructure and we look forward to deploying our network to achieve the best implementation for these funds.
“While we recognize this infrastructure bill is not perfect, and some programs we consider to be vital were not funded in it, we applaud the Senate for voting to move the bill forward and thank the Senators for their bipartisan support of such an important measure. An overwhelming majority of Americans want federal investment in infrastructure—and specifically water infrastructure—because it is too essential to our daily lives and communities to wait.”
Read more in the US Water Alliance blog post here. Scott Berry is available for interviews upon request.