U.S. Senate Approves WIFIA, a Huge Step Forward for Water Infrastructure

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The U.S. Senate passed legislationon Wednesday, May 15, that would create a Water Infrastructure Finance andInnovation Authority, a key development in addressing America’s trillion-dollarwater infrastructure challenge. A WIFIA pilot program is included in the WaterResources Development Act of 2013 (S. 601), which passed by a vote of 83-14. Itnow moves on to the U.S. House of Representatives for consideration.

The American Water WorksAssociation (AWWA), which developed the WIFIA concept, called WIFIA’s passage a“huge step forward” for water consumers and urged broad support as thelegislation heads to the House.

“Today’s approval of WIFIA by theU.S. Senate represents a huge step forward in confronting America’s waterinfrastructure challenge,” said AWWA executive director David LaFrance. “WIFIAwould repair more critical water infrastructure at a lower cost to ourcommunities. 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 Senatetake the bill to final passage,” LaFrance added. “We commend Sen. Barbara Boxerand Sen. David Vitter for working together in a bipartisan manner on thiscritical legislation. Now our commitment turns to the House, in the hopes thechamber will pass a similar bill this year.

Boxer, D-Calif., is chair of theSenate Committee on Environment and Public Works, and Vitter, R-La., is theranking Republican. A key part of WIFIA’s success was AWWA’s partnership withthe Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies and the Water EnvironmentFederation in taking the concept to Capitol Hill. S. 601 will likely bereferred to the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and InfrastructureCommittee and the Committee on Energy and Commerce.

AWWA in 2012 published acomprehensive water infrastructure report titled “Buried No Longer: ConfrontingAmerica’s Water Infrastructure Challenge,” demonstrating that more than $1trillion will be required over the next 25 years to repair and expand existingdrinking water infrastructure. The report noted that local utility customerswill bear the cost of renewal through higher water rates, but that “states andthe federal government can help with a careful and cost-effective program thatlowers the cost of necessary investments to our communities, such as thecreation of a credit support program — for example, AWWA’s proposed WaterInfrastructure Finance and Innovation Authority.”

 

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