WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR), Jon Tester (D-MT) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) introduced the Water Supply Cost Savings Act, legislation that would provide cost-effective solutions to improve access to high quality drinking water in rural communities.
“Many Arkansans rely on water wells to provide safe, affordable, and reliable drinking water. For small, isolated communities, these wells can save money and make life better. This bill will encourage agencies to support this low-cost solution by providing technical support. The bill also encourages small communities to consider water wells as one of the supply options when new water systems are built,” Boozman said.
“Access to clean drinking water is critical for the health of every rural community and in many cases well systems are the most cost-effective way to deliver it to the tap,” Tester said. “This bill will help raise awareness about all the water infrastructure options that are available to local communities so they can provide safe and reliable water to families, small businesses, and family farms and ranches in rural America.”
“Wherever you live, all Americans deserve access to safe and clean drinking water. Having modern and reliable water infrastructure protects public health, conserves natural resources, saves energy and creates jobs,” said Cardin, a senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “This legislation helps remove some of the technical and financial barriers to clean water that rural communities face while improving quality of life.”
The most recent EPA Water Drinking Needs Survey reflects a shortfall of $64 billion in drinking water infrastructure funding. The Water Supply Cost Savings Act, S. 1642 would update existing EPA and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs to provide cost-saving information about innovative and alternate drinking water delivery systems including those supported by wells. The legislation also requires that alternative drinking water supplies such as individual, shared and community wells be considered in applications for federal funding for drinking water systems serving 500 or fewer people.
Several years ago, a group of Arkansas families in an isolated community contacted Boozman’s office when they were unable to connect to an existing water system. His office referred the individuals to a non-profit organization which was able to assist with the installation of water wells to serve these families, some of which had been buying bottled drinking water and hauling water to their homes for over 15 years. This experience demonstrated some homeowners simply cannot connect to traditional water distribution systems. While funding is not available to meet the $64 billion shortfall in drinking water infrastructure, particularly for small groups of isolated homes, the federal agencies should provide basic support when these isolated communities seek alternative, more cost-effective approaches to the problem.
The legislation is supported by the National Groundwater Association (NGWA), the Water Quality Association (WQA) and the Water Systems Council (WSC).
“We are extremely grateful to Senator Boozman, Senator Tester and Senator Cardin for advancing legislation that will assist thousands of small communities in delivering high quality, affordable drinking water to millions of Americans. The bipartisan Water Supply Cost Savings Act will ensure that USDA and EPA provide those charged with delivering drinking water in rural America with critical information on the use of wells and well systems. Wells are a reliable, cost-effective way for budget challenged communities to provide safe drinking water for their residents. The Water Supply Cost Savings Act is a win for rural America and the American taxpayer,” Margaret Martens, Executive Director of the Water Systems Council said.
The bill has been referred to the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee.