April 23, 2021

S.914 – Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act of 2021

NOTEWORTHY

Background: The federal government has provided financial support for water infrastructure projects over the years through a range of programs. The Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act of 2021 builds upon legislation previously reported by the Committee on Environment and Public Works in 2020 under Republican leadership, which passed by a vote of 21-0.

Floor Situation: The committee favorably reported S.914 by a unanimous vote on April 14. The majority leader filed cloture on April 22 the motion to proceed to S.914.

Executive Summary: The legislation reauthorizes and creates programs to support drinking water and wastewater infrastructure projects, including the Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Funds, the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Funds, and the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act program. 

OVERVIEW OF THE ISSUE

The Environmental Protection Agency oversees several programs aimed at supporting clean and safe water resources. The Clean Water State Revolving Fund, created in 1987, and the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, created in 1996, provide loan assistance to support wastewater and drinking water projects. More recently, the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act program was created in 2014 to be an additional credit source for water infrastructure projects.

Over the past several years, Congress has included drinking water and clean water infrastructure provisions as part of Water Resources Development Act bills. However, last December Congress included the 2020 WRDA bill in the omnibus and did not include any titles related to drinking water and clean water infrastructure.

CONSIDERATIONS ON THE BILL

The Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act of 2021 authorizes infrastructure programs in areas where the federal government has previously provided support. The unanimous committee vote shows that this kind of responsible infrastructure investment has bipartisan support.

NOTABLE BILL PROVISIONS

TITLE I—Drinking Water

Authorizes funding for EPA’s technical assistance and grants for emergencies affecting public water systems at $35 million annually for fiscal year 2022 through FY2026.

Authorizes funding for technical assistance to small public water systems at $15 million annually for FY2022 through FY2026.

Authorizes increased funding for the Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund: $2.4 billion for FY2022; $2.75 billion for FY2023; $3 billion for FY2024; $3.25 billion for FY2025 and FY2026.

Authorizes funding for Assistance for Small and Disadvantaged Communities: $70 million for FY2022; $80 million for FY2023; $100 million for FY2024; $120 million for FY2025; and $140 million for FY2026.

Authorizes funding for the Drinking Water System Infrastructure Resilience and Sustainability program at $25 million for FY2022 through FY2026. Stipulates a 90% federal cost share for aid to small, rural, and disadvantaged communities.

Requires EPA to carry out a study examining community water needs, including in rural areas, and provide recommendations on how to better provide affordable and safe drinking water and wastewater.

Creates a pilot program to provide grants to develop and implement programs to help needy households maintain access to drinking water and wastewater treatment.

Creates a program to facilitate grants to link households to public water infrastructure. Authorizes the program at $20 million annually from FY2022 through FY2026.

The legislation facilitates several initiatives to reduce lead in drinking water infrastructure, including a pilot program to help communities use mapping information. Authorizes $10 million for the program. Also authorizes funding to address lead in school drinking water systems: $30 million for FY2022; $35 million for FY2023; $40 million for FY2024; $45 million for FY2025; and $50 million for FY2026.

TITLE II—Clean Water

Authorizes funding under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, or the Clean Water Act, including for research, investigations, training, and information at $75 million annually for FY2022 through FY2026.

Creates a pilot program to facilitate grants for projects that seek to bolster waste-to-energy projects. Authorizes $20 million annually for the program from FY2022 through FY2026, as well as stipulates that grants may not exceed $4 million.

Reauthorizes pilot program for alternative water source projects. Authorizes $25 million annually for FY2022 through FY2026.

Authorizes funding for sewer overflow and stormwater reuse municipal grants at $280 million annually for FY2022 through FY2026, placing a particular emphasis on projects in rural communities.

Directs EPA to create a clean water infrastructure resiliency and sustainability program to provide grants aimed at protecting water systems from weather events and cybersecurity risks. Authorizes the program at $25 million annually for FY2022 through FY2026.

Directs EPA to create a circuit rider program for small and medium sized, publicly owned treatment works. Authorizes the program at $10 million annually for FY2022 through FY2026.

Directs EPA to create an efficiency grant program for small publicly owned treatment works to support water and energy efficiency in disadvantaged communities, as well as those in rural areas with a population of less than 10,000.

Authorizes funding for the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Funds: $2.4 billion for FY2022; $2.75 billion for FY2023; $3 billion for FY2024; and $3.25 billion for FY2025 and FY2026.

Reauthorizes the Innovative Water Infrastructure Workforce Development program at $5 million annually for FY2022 through FY2026. Also creates a federal interagency working group to report to Congress on bolstering the water and wastewater utility workforce. The group will be comprised of members from EPA, the Department of Education, the Department of Labor, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and other appropriate federal agencies.

Directs EPA to create a water data sharing pilot program aimed at ensuring the coordination of data and information regarding water quality and needs between state and local governments. Authorizes the program at $15 million annually for FY2022 through FY2026.

Reauthorizes the Water Infrastructure Financing and Innovation Act program at $50 million annually for FY2022 through FY2026.

Directs EPA to facilitate grants to institutions to serve as centers of excellence for stormwater control infrastructure technologies.

Directs EPA to create a Water Reuse Interagency Working Group to identify ways to support water reuse, as well as compile a national action plan to support the initiative.

ADMINISTRATION POSITION

The Biden administration has not released a Statement of Administration Policy on S.914.

COST

The legislation authorizes approximately $35 billion from FY2022 through FY2026.

The Congressional Budget Office, along with the Joint Committee on Taxation, have projected that the bill would not grow on-budget deficits by greater than $5 billion in any of the four consecutive 10-year periods starting in 2032.