Water infrastructure projects would get a boost under legislation to reauthorize the clean water and drinking water state revolving funds at $38.5 billion over five years. The proposal passed the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on May 14. The bill, which was approved with bipartisan support, would increase the clean water SRF to $20 billion over five years and the drinking water SRF to $14.7 billion over five years.

A comparable bill passed the House on March 5, although the House bill only provides funds for the clean water SRF and does not address drinking water.

Construction industry groups are hopeful that the swift passage in the House and the Environment and Public Works committee bodes well for the bill’s ultimate prospects this year. Sen. James Inhofe, (Okla.) ranking Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, says that the “overwhelming bipartisan vote” for the bill “shows that we have a good chance of passing it on the Senate floor.”

Inhofe and other Republicans on the committee say they support a hike in funds for the SRF because without one, states and localities would be saddled with bearing the brunt of the costs of upgrading water infrastructure with little federal assistance. The Clean Water SRF has not been reauthorized in 22 years, and the drinking water SRF has not been reauthorized since 1996. “This bipartisan bill will go a long way in helping our state and local communities meet their water needs,” Inhofe says.

Ken Kirk, executive director of the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, which represents wastewater utilities, says he is hopeful that the Senate passes the legislation soon “so that we can reconcile it with the House bill and get it to President Obama’s desk for signature.”

In addition to boosting the Clean and Drinking Water SRFs, the bill would also provide:

  • $1.8 billion for grants to address combined sewer overflows;
  • $60 million/year in grants to reduce lead in drinking water;
  • New incentives for green infrastructure projects.