More than 240 American Water Works Association (AWWA) delegates from across the United States will meet virtually with their congressional representatives and senators this month as part of the annual “Water Matters! Fly-In.” AWWA members will highlight the need to invest in water infrastructure, replace lead service lines and address per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
Several bills addressing these issues are active in Congress, and U.S. President Joe Biden has made water infrastructure a significant part of his American Jobs Plan.
AWWA’s government affairs office in Washington, D.C., in coordination with AWWA’s sections and Water Utility Council, hosts the event to enable AWWA members to speak with their congressional offices about water policy and legislation. This year’s virtual meetings began April 19 and will continue throughout the month.
“The 2021 Fly-In is particularly important this year because of the changes in the U.S. presidential administration and congressional leadership, as well as the heightened public appreciation for safe and reliable water during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Tommy Holmes, AWWA’s legislative director. “We also have a number of new members of Congress who need to be introduced to AWWA.”
“The association, through its members and the WUC, provides the water sector’s unique knowledge and expertise to policymakers as they deliberate drinking water policy. The Fly-In is a great opportunity to highlight our priorities with elected officials,” he added.
To prepare delegates for the upcoming meetings, the government affairs staff conducted a webinar for delegates on how to schedule and conduct the virtual meetings and another to discuss AWWA’s specific issues. They also developed a summary of key actions that AWWA supports to invest in the nation’s water infrastructure, which include:
- Reauthorize the Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund (SRF) and the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) for an additional five years. AWWA requests that Congress at least double the SRF authorization to $2.4 billion or more and increase WIFIA funding beyond the current level of $50 million to $60 million.
- Authorize and fund federal programs to help utilities reduce exposure to lead in drinking water and remove all lead service lines over time. This includes school and childcare lead testing, school drinking water fountain replacements and grants for lead reduction projects in communities with more than 30% of lead service lines.
- Provide funding for additional PFAS health effects research, treatment for existing PFAS in drinking water sources, and prevention of new PFAS being introduced into the environment.
- Reinstate a tax exemption for advanced refunding of municipal bonds, which allows state and local governments to restructure existing debt at lower interest rates.
In addition to the Fly-In, AWWA and other partners in the water sector will participate in a Water Week webinar April 27 featuring speakers from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and key congressional committees. This annual water policy event provides a forum for grassroots activism on behalf of the water community.