The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Water Quality Financing Act of 2007 (HR 720) by a strong 303-108 vote. The bill would authorize the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Water State Revolving Fund to the tune of $14 billion for the next four years. A fifth year of funding ($6 billion) was dropped prior to floor consideration in order to better facilitate the bill’s passage.
The House also passed the Water Quality Investment Act of 2007 (HR 569) by a vote of 367-58. The legislation would authorize $1.7 billion in federal appropriations to municipalities and states for grants to control combined sewer overflows and sanitary sewer overflows. Fin-ally, the Healthy Com-munities Water Supply Act (HR 700) was approved. The bill would allow for $125 million federal funding of projects designed to investigate alternative water sources.
The National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) applauded the U.S. House for moving swiftly and decisively to provide municipalities with more funding for clean water infrastructure. “The nation’s clean water agencies view this important vote as a solid first step toward averting a crisis of crumbling infrastructure that threatens the water quality gains of the last 35 years under the Clean Water Act,” says Ken Kirk, NACWA executive director. “The House has acted wisely and boldly to recommit to the goals of the act. Now we need the Senate to follow suit, and we look forward to working with members of the Senate and their staff on a similar legislative effort. Then Congress should take the next major step and provide dedicated, long-term funding for clean water.”
The EPA, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), and the Water Infrastructure Network (WIN) estimate the funding gap for this critical infrastructure at $300 billion to $500 billion over 20 years, and it is clear that existing mechanisms for addressing this enormous funding gap fall far short. EPA acknowledges that unless the funding gap is sufficiently addressed, the water quality gains of the last 35 years could evaporate by 2016.
NACWA also applauded H.R. 720’s provision calling on GAO to prepare a study on revenue sources for a clean water trust fund by Jan. 1, 2008.