Washington, D.C. -- In testimony today before a U.S. Congressional subcommittee, the American Water Works Association (AWWA) endorsed draft legislation that would create a Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Authority (WIFIA) to reduce the cost of water infrastructure projects for utility customers.
The testimony came one day after AWWA, the world’s largest association of water professionals, released an extensive analysis that showed the cost of repairing and expanding U.S. drinking water infrastructure will top $1 trillion in the next 25 years and $1.7 trillion over 40 years.
Speaking before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, which is considering legislation to create a WIFIA, Aurel Arndt, general manager of Leigh County Authority in Allentown, Pa., said WIFIA “would fill a significant gap between what current water infrastructure tools can do and what needs to be done.”
WIFIA would lower the cost of local water infrastructure projects at little or no long-term cost to the federal taxpayer. The mechanism would borrow U.S. Treasury funds to provide low-interest loans, loan guarantees, or other credit support to local communities. Loan repayments – with interest – and guarantee fees would flow back to WIFIA and into the Treasury – again, with interest. Eligible water infrastructure projects would include water, wastewater, and wet weather related projects.
“In short, WIFIA will allow our nation to build more water infrastructure at less cost,” Arndt said. “And to top that, we will get a cleaner environment, better public health and safety and a stronger foundation for our economy.”
The testimony stressed that AWWA strongly believes the cornerstone of water infrastructure finance should remain, local rates and charges. However, Arndt added, there are periods in time when large infusions of capital are needed, such as when large amounts of pipe must be replaced or a treatment plant must be upgraded due to age or new regulations.
The Feb. 27 AWWA report, titled “Buried No Longer: Confronting America’s Water Infrastructure Challenge,” analyzed many factors, including timing of water main installation and life expectancy, materials used, replacement costs and shifting demographics. Nationally, the infrastructure needs are almost evenly divided between replacement and expansion requirements.
“A number of water infrastructure tools have been sincerely proposed over the years, but WIFIA is the one that best targets the real needs of communities, makes the most fiscal sense, and that will have the most impact on our nation’s water infrastructure,” Arndt said.
AWWA is the authoritative resource for knowledge, information, and advocacy to improve the quality and supply of water in North America and beyond. AWWA is the largest organization of water professionals in the world. AWWA advances public health, safety and welfare by uniting the efforts of the full spectrum of the entire water community. Through our collective strength we become better stewards of water for the greatest good of the people and the environment.