U.S. Senators Harry Reid (D-Nevada), Barbara Boxer (D-California), and Ben Cardin (D-Maryland) introduced a bill that would create a new grant program to repair or replace the country’s aging water infrastructure. The legislation, S. 741, The Water Infrastructure Resiliency and Sustainability Act (WIRS), directs the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) to establish a program to help local communities meet the challenges of upgrading water infrastructure systems. “This legislation will help ensure that our communities have access to clean, safe drinking water, while also strengthening our aging water infrastructure and protecting against the dangerous impacts of climate change, including severe flooding and prolonged drought,” says Sen. Boxer.
Under the WIRS program, communities across the country will be able to compete for federal matching funds, which in turn will support project financing to help communities fix their aging water infrastructure systems. “Our water infrastructure is in a state of crisis that is only exacerbated by the effects of climate change, growing populations and demand. The longer we ignore the problem, the more it costs us,” says Sen. Cardin, a senior member of the Environment and Public Works Committee. “There is no need to lose billions in revenue from disrupted business and flooded streets. We are in a crisis that can be averted. We have no other choice but to elevate investments in our water infrastructure to a public safety priority and to take action.”
Examples of projects eligible for WIRS grants include the promotion of water conservation or efficiency measures, modifications to existing infrastructure in response to changing hydrologic conditions, and the implementation of programs to recycle or reuse water. As proposed, the Federal cost share towards a selected project will be limited to 50 percent, with the stipulation that the remaining costs cannot be provided from another Federal funding source. The draft legislation seeks to authorize $50 million in appropriations for each Fiscal Year from 2015 through 2019.