Note: This blog is part of a periodic series of updates from Don Jodrey, the Alliance’s Director of Federal Government Relations, with his view on Great Lakes policy from Washington, DC.
Early this year, we published our list of federal priorities for 2023, and chief among them was the need to increase funding for water infrastructure. We believe that clean water is a basic need. No one should be without clean, safe, affordable drinking water or worried about sewage back-ups in their homes or community flooding that damages property. With communities across the Great Lakes grappling with antiquated drinking water and sewer systems, we have called on Congress to more than double current annual levels of funding for both the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds from $2.5 billion to $8.7 billion, which is the authorized level of funding for those programs that Congress established in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021.
New data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) shows the urgent need for water infrastructure funding. The agency just released its 7th Drinking Water Information Needs Survey and Assessment (DWINSA), which estimates that there is a $625 billion backlog in drinking water systems nationwide. Based upon more than 3,500 individual survey responses from public drinking water systems around the country, the 7th DWINSA represents drinking water infrastructure projects that are necessary over the next 20 years for public water systems to be able to provide safe drinking water to the public. For the first time, information on lead service line needs is included, and it is worth noting that the backlog represents a 32% increase since the last survey was completed about five years ago.
Given that water infrastructure needs are growing, it is gratifying to see that some Members of Congress are taking up the charge. One of our newest Great Lakes members, first-term Representative Emilia Sykes from Ohio’s 13th congressional district, is leading the way. Representative Sykes, along with Representative Grace Napolitano from California’s 31st congressional district, both recently submitted a letter to the House Appropriations Committee signed by 31 other members of Congress calling for increased funding for water infrastructure. Representatives Sykes and Napolitano, both members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, noted the importance that access to clean water has for both public health and economic benefits and requested increased funding for both the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds, the Sewer Overflow and Stormwater Municipal Grant Program, the Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program, and numerous other smaller programs that support water infrastructure workforce development and environmental justice. We appreciate their leadership and know that increasing federal appropriations for water infrastructure will be a tough sell this year in Congress, but given the unrelenting need, it is an issue that deserves our continued attention.