| Water Matters! Fly-In delegates urge congressional funding support
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Water Matters! Fly-In delegates urge congressional funding support

More than 150 water managers from 49 states and Puerto Rico met with their elected leaders in U.S. Congress this week to urge support for programs that fund water infrastructure and protect water quality. They were on Capitol Hill as part of the annual Water Matters! Fly-In, hosted by the American Water Works Association (AWWA).

Dave Rager Fly-In videoIn more than 300 meetings Wednesday and Thursday, the delegates spoke with U.S. senators and representatives about key water issues, including addressing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in water, advancing source water protection and funding programs that provide communities with critical water infrastructure loans. (Video credit: Greg Kail and Diana Aqra, AWWA)

“The vast and largely unseen water and wastewater systems serving our communities are critical to our nation’s public health, safety and economic strength,” said AWWA President David Rager. “The members of the American Water Works Association urge Congress to provide robust funding that allows water infrastructure projects to move forward quickly.”

America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, passed in October 2018, was an important step forward in addressing America’s trillion-dollar water infrastructure challenge. It reauthorized the innovative new Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program and the time-tested state revolving loan funds (SRFs). To reach their full potential, these federal loan programs must be fully funded in current and future federal budgets.

“This week is also an opportunity to introduce new members of Congress to AWWA and its mission,” Rager added. “It’s important they know we are a source of objective, science-based information that can help inform their decisions on water quality, management and sustainability.”

Specifically, AWWA delegates called upon Congress to:
•    Provide fully-authorized funding in fiscal year 2020 for $1.3 billion for the SRF program and $50 million for the WIFIA program
•    Begin discussions for future reauthorization of the drinking water and wastewater SRF programs and of WIFIA
•    Maintain funding for conservation programs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture as authorized in last year’s Farm Bill, particularly the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) at $300 million in FY2020

AWWA members also thanked U.S. Congress for emphasizing the protection of drinking water sources in the recently passed farm bill, the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018. The bill – the key issue in last year’s AWWA fly-in -- provides funds for programs and partnerships that allow agricultural producers and water utilities to collaborate on source water protection. It included virtually every one of AWWA’s key asks.

“Our representatives and senators should be applauded for recognizing the connection between smart farming practices and clean, affordable drinking water,” said Kurt Vause,Kurt Vause pictured at right, chair of AWWA’s Water Utility Council. “The commitments they made through the farm bill will serve communities across the United States for years to come, particularly by reducing contaminants in runoff that can harm source water supplies.”

Water quality and the protection of public health have been at the core of AWWA’s mission since the Association was founded in 1881. PFAS in water is a rising concern nationwide, and AWWA believes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should have the tools it needs to make accurate, health-based decisions about how to address the contaminant.

Delegates asked Congress to support EPA with resources necessary for health effects studies, the creation of analytical methods to quantify levels of PFAS, and the exploration of technologies to efficiently and effectively remove the contaminants.