Associations Detail Water Agenda for Obama

The American Water Works Association has joined with the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, National Association of Water Companies, and the National Rural Water Association in developing "A National Agenda for Drinking Water" to assist President-elect Barack Obama and his incoming administration, according to an article by AWWA's Mainstream staff. To view the report, visit http://www.awwa.org/files/GovtPublicAffairs/PDF/Transition.pdf

The report addresses such topics as economic stimulus, long-term infrastructure investment, drinking water standards, source water protection, climate change, and system security.

According to the AWWA article, it specifically asks for “dedicated funding” for water infrastructure in any economic stimulus package, “dispersed in such a way as to be quickly accessed by utility managers, with a minimum of delay and ‘red tape.’” It calls the $1 billion included in the earlier stimulus package “a good start,” but says that “much more money is needed” to fund the wide range of projects nationwide that have been affected by the credit crisis. It advocates equal funding for drinking water and wastewater projects.

Recommendations for longer-term infrastructure investment include low- or no-interest loans and tax incentives, as well as grants in some instances. The report asks for

•the Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund and USDA Rural Water Loan and Grant programs to be funded at a minimum of $1 billion annually;

•federal assistance programs to help utilities become economically self-sustaining; and

•new mechanisms for innovative approaches to capital, such as “some form of infrastructure bank.”

The report rejects “any proposal” of a federal water tax, charge, or levy against either utilities or customers.

On the standards front, the report advocates “the deliberative, science-based” processes of the Safe Drinking Water Act and calls for the administration to “reject legislative prescriptions for decisions that should be made through the regulatory process.”

Emerging contaminants are addressed in the section on source water protection, which the report recommends be addressed through more research and revisions to the Clean Water Act where necessary. It asks that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s carbon-sequestration efforts be made to protect drinking water sources “over the very long run,” and for U.S. Department of Agriculture activities to protect source water to be “fully utilized.”

The impact of climate change on drinking water resources should be addressed with dedicated funding for research and to help utilities adapt to the changing demands climate change may bring, the report recommends.

Finally, the report says that water system security measures should not •force water utilities to change processes in favor of "inherently safer technologies;”

•enable federal officials to order water utilities to shut down; and

•subject water utilities to regulation by multiple federal agencies.

It also asks for protection of “sensitive data regarding water utilities” and that any new federal security mandates be accompanied by federal financial assistance.

In response to a question from Water & Wastewater News about what priorities President-elect Obama should have now, a National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) spokeswoman said, "Right now, we're focused on getting an economic stimulus package enacted. It will and should be a priority if we don't get one enacted in the next two months."

NACWA represents wastewater treatment facilities.

Susan Bruninga, who is director of legislative and public affairs at NACWA, also told WWN that her association believes the stimulus package should include $10 billion for wastewater infrastructure projects. Extrapolating from the experience of the transportation bill, Bruninga said that every $1 billion creates about 47,000 jobs.

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