U.S. Senate Approves WIFIA, a Huge Step Forward for Water Infrastructure
May 16, 2013
The U.S. Senate passed legislation on Wednesday, May 15, that would create a Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Authority, a key development in addressing America’s trillion-dollar water infrastructure challenge. A WIFIA pilot program is included in the Water Resources Development Act of 2013 (S. 601), which passed by a vote of 83-14. It now moves on to the U.S. House of Representatives for consideration.
The American Water Works Association (AWWA), which developed the WIFIA concept, called WIFIA’s passage a “huge step forward” for water consumers and urged broad support as the legislation heads to the House.
“Today’s approval of WIFIA by the U.S. Senate represents a huge step forward in confronting America’s water infrastructure challenge,” said AWWA executive director David LaFrance. “WIFIA would repair more critical water infrastructure at a lower cost to our communities. With so many of our nation’s water pipes in need of replacement, WIFIA will benefit everyone who receives a water bill.
“We are delighted to see the Senate take the bill to final passage,” LaFrance added. “We commend Sen. Barbara Boxer and Sen. David Vitter for working together in a bipartisan manner on this critical legislation. Now our commitment turns to the House, in the hopes the chamber will pass a similar bill this year.
Boxer, D-Calif., is chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, and Vitter, R-La., is the ranking Republican. A key part of WIFIA’s success was AWWA’s partnership with the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies and the Water Environment Federation in taking the concept to Capitol Hill. S. 601 will likely be referred to the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Committee on Energy and Commerce.
AWWA in 2012 published a comprehensive water infrastructure report titled “Buried No Longer: Confronting America’s Water Infrastructure Challenge,” demonstrating that more than $1 trillion will be required over the next 25 years to repair and expand existing drinking water infrastructure. The report noted that local utility customers will bear the cost of renewal through higher water rates, but that “states and the federal government can help with a careful and cost-effective program that lowers the cost of necessary investments to our communities, such as the creation of a credit support program -- for example, AWWA’s proposed Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Authority.”