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AWWA fly-in delegates take water matters to Congress

Delegates celebrate WIFIA 100th loan, advocate for smart policy on PFAS, cybersecurity, infrastructure, source water protection

More than 140 water leaders from throughout the United States gathered in Washington, D.C. today to advocate for smart water policy to members of Congress at the 21st American Water Works Association (AWWA) Water Matters! Fly-In.

AWWA delegates are meeting with their respective representatives, senators and congressional staffs in more than 300 meetings over the next two days. AWWA Water Utility Council Chair Ken Lykens noted the fly-in is an annual opportunity “to become the voice for water issues on Capitol Hill.”

During the two-day event, delegates bring forth issues of interest from their home states and elevate four national issues on behalf of all water utilities, which include: Supporting water infrastructure funding, protecting utilities from liability concerns in cases of (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) PFAS contamination, considering the best approaches to cybersecurity oversight and funding source water protection work through the 2023 reauthorization of the U.S. Farm Bill.

The Wednesday morning briefing was also an occasion to recognize a significant victory accomplished through previous AWWA fly-ins. Staff from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) were on hand to celebrate the 100th loan from the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program, which was created by legislation crafted by AWWA and promoted by AWWA delegates over several years. The 100th loan was recently issued to Santa Clara Water District in California.

“The WIFIA program is open for business thanks in large part to you,” said Jorianne Jernberg, director of the WIFIA Management Division for EPA. “Almost everyone in this room has been a part of getting this program to where it is.”

According to EPA, since being enacted in 2014, WIFIA has issued $17 billion in loans to water, wastewater and reuse systems resulting in $5 billion in savings for borrowers. The loans have also created 123,000 jobs.

This year’s AWWA delegates at the Water Matters! Fly-In brought are bringing four national issues to the attention of Congress:

Support the “Polluter Pays” Principle in PFAS Cleanup

  • Support an explicit legislative exemption from liability under CERCLA (Superfund) for water systems acting in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations in the event of PFAS contamination.

Building cybersecurity resilience in the water sector

  • Authorize a coregulatory model, similar to that of the energy sector, to provide a foundation for implementing minimum cybersecurity requirements, defined by the water sector, with oversight from EPA.
  • Support capacity development programs to expand outreach for training programs – such as those offered by AWWA – through small systems grants provided by EPA and U.S. Department of Agriculture.
  • Establish a dedicated funding program to expedite implementation of cybersecurity best practices in the water sector, funded at a level comparable to the Rural and Municipal Utility Advanced Cybersecurity Grant and Technical Assistance Program created for the energy sector.

Support source water protection through the Farm Bill

  • Protect the 10% set‐aside for source water protection in the upcoming Farm Bill.
  • Ensure that the 10% set-aside applies only to conservation funds included in the Inflation Reduction Act by moving those funds into the Farm Bill baseline.
  • Make improvements to Natural Resource Conservation Service programs and practices that will help continue to advance source water protection.

Invest in the nation’s water infrastructure

  • Support full funding for Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and WIFIA at or above the authorized amount.
  • Halt the practice of taking funding for earmarks out of the annual SRF appropriations.
  • Restore the tax‐exempt benefits of advanced refunding of municipal bonds.

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Established in 1881, the American Water Works Association is the largest nonprofit, scientific and educational association dedicated to managing and treating water, the world’s most vital resource. With approximately 50,000 members, AWWA provides solutions to improve public health, protect the environment, strengthen the economy and enhance our quality of life.