Congress Considers Opening the Spigot for Safe Drinking Water

The Great Lakes serve up drinking water for 40 million people, but the region’s infrastructure is old and in need of improvement. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that the Great Lakes need about $75 billion to fix our aging system that controls our drinking water.

This week, the House Subcommittee on Energy and Commerce introduced legislation that would increase funding for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund – a program that gives states loans for drinking water treatment, storage facilities, transmission and distribution systems and for consolidation of the systems.

Congressmen Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.) introduced the reauthorization bill “Assistance, Quality and Affordability Act of 2010” to help states improve their drinking water infrastructure, give the Environmental Protection Agency more authority to deal with abuses, reduce lead in drinking water and strengthen the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program.

“Drinking water infrastructure is a pressing issue in so many of our communities,” said Chairman Waxman. “This bill will increase compliance with SDWA requirements nationwide, protect human health, assist disadvantaged communities, and ensure the provision of safe and affordable drinking water for years to come.”

The nearly 15-year-old Drinking Water State Revolving Fund is a loan program for states to improve water infrastructure. The money is used to increase compliance with safe drinking water standards. The Great Lakes region isn’t the only area in need of help: The nation’s water infrastructure–which serves more than 272 million people–have been chronically underfunded and face infrastructure needs that will cost more than $334 billion over the next two decades.

Last year’s economic recovery package injected an additional $2 billion for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure improvement projects. That was a big boost for this important program. Congress needs to sustain that level of commitment if the region is to upgrade its aging infrastructure. In addition to the increased funding, our Great Lakes states and localities would benefit from more flexibility.

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