Weekly Columns

The Senate added one more very important bill to its list of bipartisan accomplishments this Congress, passage of the America’s Water Infrastructure Act.  

This bill authorizes critical water infrastructure projects across the country for the next two years, which will help ensure our nation’s continued growth and maintain our position as a leader in the global economy. It is in lock step with President Trump’s vision for modernizing our infrastructure which will lead to more economic growth, less red tape, stronger personal property protections and improved transparency—all while being fiscally responsible. 

Included within the America’s Water Infrastructure Act is an innovative approach to modernizing critical water infrastructure—especially in rural areas often unable to afford upgrades to aging water systems—that is based off legislation I authored with Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ). 

The new program will combine the best aspects of two existing funding programs to make the process easier and more affordable for states to meet their underserved or unmet water infrastructure needs. It will increase access to previously unavailable funding sources for small and medium-size communities, while removing high application fees which often prevent rural communities from applying for funding. 

This policy change is the result of months-long negotiations. It blends the best ideas available to ensure this common sense, bipartisan approach will work effectively and efficiently while providing millions, and potentially billions, in project dollars to communities that have traditionally not had access to these types of funds. Making this change will allow a multitude of vetted water and wastewater projects to receive funding without the Environmental Protect Agency having to process thousands of additional applications. 

With support from a diverse group of senators, ranging from Jim Inhofe (R-OK) to Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), this new initiative to address overdue water infrastructure upgrades has the opportunity to yield dividends across the country. The fact that this new policy has cosponsors from across the country, with vastly different political ideologies, underscores an important point. Infrastructure investment is not a rural issue, or a big city issue. It is not a red state problem or a blue state problem. This is a national emergency, and it is time we put partisanship aside and work together to provide safe and reliable drinking and wastewater services to every part of our country. 

This message is echoed by the diverse voices in the industry and advocacy community, on both a national and state level, who have put their support behind my idea. Kristina Swallow, President of the American Society of Civil Engineers, praised our new funding option “that will improve our nation’s water infrastructure.” Dennis Sternberg, Executive Director of Arkansas Rural Water Association, applauded the policy update to extend these authorities to states and localities, noting that “small communities have more difficulty affording public wastewater service due to lack of population density and lack of economies of scale.” He agrees that this new program will be a real help to rural America. 

Passage of the America’s Water Infrastructure Act is in itself a bipartisan victory, as it cleared the Senate 99-1 in the final vote, a strong show of support that is not often seen with a bill of this magnitude. It will soon become law, setting a great example of the good policy outcomes that can be accomplished if we work together.