House infrastructure advocates are laying down a marker for water infrastructure funding, proposing a five-year measure to authorize $50 billion for wastewater treatment infrastructure programs.

The heart of  the bill, introduced on March 16, is $40 billion over five years for Clean Water State Revolving Funds (SRFs). That program—which provides loans, not grants—has long been the main federal funding source for wastewater treatment projects.

[View House committee's fact sheet on bill here; section-by-section summary here; and seven-page bill text here.]

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), the bill's sponsor, said in a statement that if enacted, the new measure would reauthorize the SRF program for the first time in more than 30 years.

"We have the opportunity to invest in both rural and urban communities alike and ensure that no matter what Zip Code a person lives in, they will have access to clean, reliable and safe water," DeFazio said.

The bill is silent on where the sizable new revenue would come from. Revenue measures fall under the purview of the Ways and Means Committee.

Another caveat is that, like all authorization bills, the water proposal’s funding is subject to annual appropriations. The SRF section of the bill authorizes $8 billion per year for Clean Water SRFs.

A key co-sponsor, Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.)—who chairs the water resources and environment subcommittee, said at a Feb. 23 hearing that the SRFs' fiscal 2021 appropriation is only $1.6 billion. [View ENR 2/23/2021story on the hearing here.]

Kristina Surfus, National Association of Clean Water Agencies managing director for government affairs, said in emailed comments to ENR, "Congress will be challenged to find pay-fors for infrastructure investment of all types, including water."

Surfus adds, "This clean water authorization package is a great first step, setting the stage for significantly higher appropriations."

Besides the $40 billion for SRFs, the new proposal also would authorize $10 billion in water infrastructure grants.

Of that amount, $2.5 billion would go to states for water quality improvement programs, another $2.5 billion would be provided to Indian Tribes’ wastewater projects and $2 billion would go to municipalities for sewer-overflow or stormwater projects.

Municipalities would receive $1 billion for watershed, wet weather and resilience pilot projects.

Pilot projects for alternative water sources, such as wastewater and stormwater reuse also would receive a $1-billion allotment.

The remaining $1 billion would be allocated to municipalities to deal with treatment of polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and other water contaminants.

The bill doesn’t address drinking-water infrastructure, because that program falls under the jurisdiction of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, not Transportation and Infrastructure.

According to the House committee, the measure has the support of more than 50 groups, including NACWA, the Associated General Contractors of America,  Sierra Club, U.S. Conference of Mayors and two large building trades unions.