Water a key focus of Biden infrastructure plan U.S. President Biden unveiled a national infrastructure renewal plan Wednesday that includes $111 billion for water infrastructure. That breaks out into $56 billion for grants and low-cost loans for water infrastructure, $45 billion to replace lead service lines and to perform other types of lead remediation in schools and childcare facilities, and $10 billion to monitor and remediate for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and to invest in rural systems and household wells and wastewater systems. Details are not yet available, but much of the money will go through the drinking water and wastewater state revolving loan fund programs and through already-existing grant programs for water. The complex infrastructure plan must still wend its way through the legislative process, which could mean some components are dropped and some funding reduced. However, the plan’s recognition of the need to reinvest in water infrastructure is significant. AWWA estimates that removal of all service lines affected by the Revised Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) will cost at least $60 billion, so the $45 billion allocated would be a very strong start. More details are expected in the coming weeks. U.S. EPA announces lead communications effort The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Wednesday announced a multi-pronged effort to gather more public input for revisions to the LCR. Here are key features of the effort: Public listening sessions . 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. ET April 28 and May 5. Individuals interested in providing comment should contact EPA for a three-minute time slot assignment by submitting a registration form . A new public docket . Public comment will be opened as soon as a notice can be published in the Federal Register at http://www.regulations.gov and will remain open until June 30. The new Docket ID No. is EPA-HQ-OW-2021-0255. Virtual roundtables . This will be for communities that are disproportionately impacted by the challenges of lead in drinking water. EPA requests that interested communities submit their nomination letter to EPA via email to LCRR@epa.gov no later than April 23. Stakeholder roundtables . Representatives of national organizations focused on environmental, industry, consumer and intergovernmental perspectives will participate. Nomination letters must be submitted to EPA via email to LCRR@epa.gov no later than April 23 for the June meetings. U.S. Senate panel advances water infrastructure bill Congressional efforts to reinvest in the nation’s water infrastructure took a significant step last week when the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works voted unanimously to send a water infrastructure bill to the Senate floor. Senate sources tell AWWA that their goal is to see the bipartisan bill considered on the Senate floor in April and on President Biden’s desk for his signature by the end of summer. That will depend on the House of Representatives also passing similar legislation and then a House-Senate conference being able to produce a single bill. The House Committee on Energy and Commerce has begun work on a drinking water bill . Here are highlights of S. 914 , the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act of 2021: Reauthorization of the drinking water state revolving loan fund (SRF) program; authorized funding would start at $2.4 billion in 2021 and ramp up to $3.25 billion in 2025 and 2026. During the past two fiscal years the program has received $1.26 billion. Reauthorization of the wastewater SRF program at the same funding levels as the drinking water program. Reauthorization of the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act at $50 million annually, the same level as in previous years. It would also reduce the number of credit reports required in an application from two to one. An EPA study of U.S. water systems with a disproportionate number of low-income customers with recommendations for addressing the affordability of water service. Within 90 days of submitting this report to Congress, EPA is to set up a pilot program to provide grants to 40 water systems to help low-income households maintain affordable water service. Reauthorization and increased funding for EPA programs to reduce lead in drinking water. Reauthorization of the utility resiliency program and expanding it to medium and large water systems. A stronger focus on cybersecurity is added. Water bill assistance website launches The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has launched a website to provide information about a new program that will provide funds to help low-income customers pay for water services. No information is available yet on how to apply for these funds, but this site will be a key resource. The new program – called the Low Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP) – came about after Congress provided $638 million in the fiscal year 2021 omnibus budget bill in December to assist low-income customers with their water bills. Congress provided another $500 million in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 this spring. In LIHWAP, HHS will make grants to states and then money will be made available to water systems to help low-income customers. HHS has asked every governor and head of a Native American tribe to identify their specific officials who will be responsible for the program in their state or tribe. The U.S. Department of the Treasury will administer other programs in the American Rescue Plan Act, such as assistance for homeowners and renters, as well as infrastructure funding. So far, only a fact sheet on the features of the bill is available. AWWA reaches out to new Senate conservation chair AWWA CEO David LaFrance reached out to Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, new chair of the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation , to congratulate him and emphasize AWWA’s keen interest in source water protection efforts in federal agricultural policy. LaFrance said the Association is also interested in simplifying and expanding the Regional Conservation Partnership Program at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a program an increasing number of water utilities have begun to use. Bennet’s subcommittee will soon be developing the conservation and forestry titles for the 2023 edition of the federal Farm Bill. AWWA joins letter to Treasury on infrastructure AWWA has joined a group of water associations in reminding the U.S. Department of the Treasury that certain funds in the recently enacted American Rescue Plan are specifically designated for water, sewer or broadband infrastructure. The letter pointed out that $350 billion is designated for state and local government fiscal recovery and that $10 billion is designated for capital projects. Co-signing the letter with AWWA were the Association of California Water Agencies, the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies and the National Association of Clean Water Agencies. No guidance or criteria have been issued yet for applying for these funds. U.S. House panel introduces wastewater bill Leadership of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure has introduced a bill that would reauthorize the wastewater state revolving loan fund program from 2022 through 2026 at $8 billion annually. H.R. 1915 , or the Water Quality Protection and Job Creation Act, would also authorize $1 billion in grants for municipalities to implement treatment standards for PFAS and other emerging contaminants. DHS cybersecurity ‘sprints’ includes water sector U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas on Wednesday announced a series of 60-day “sprints” to address cybersecurity vulnerabilities. One of the six focus area will include improving the resiliency of industrial control systems that undergird water and sewage treatment facilities to withstand a cyberattack. In describing this “sprint,” he cited the cyberattack earlier this year at the Oldsmar, Fla., drinking water treatment plant as evidence of the need to address industrial control systems. Other areas of focus will be ransomware, cybersecurity workforce, election integrity, supply chains and long-term preparation. P3 water summit set for April 21-23 More than 600 public agency and industry representatives are expected to participate in a virtual P3 Water Summit April 21-23. Sponsors call this event an opportunity to learn, discuss and share evolving concepts and state-of-the-art techniques in delivering water partnerships. This annual program focuses on drinking water, green infrastructure, wastewater, sanitation, stormwater, resiliency and more. This year’s summit is designed to help public utilities and water managers plan and procure successful P3 initiatives, understand documentation and discover industry best practices in selecting and negotiating with prospective partners. Registration is available online. EPA hosting UCMR 5 stakeholder meetings EPA will host two identical virtual meetings Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss its proposed fifth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule ( UCMR 5 ). The meeting will cover proposed monitoring requirements, analyte selection, analytical methods, laboratory approval process and ground water representative monitoring plans. The agency is to provide additional information once the proposal is published in the Federal Register. Those interested are asked to register for just one meeting. Separate registration is available for Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s meetings. Public comments on UCMR 5 are due May 10. New report from Clean Water Action Clean Water Action released a new report, “ Roadmap for Reform March 2021 Federal and State Action Needed to Protect Water from Upstream Oil and Gas Activities ,” highlighting opportunities under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) Underground Injection Control (UIC) Program and Clean Water Act. The report points out that the UIC program is an underfunded SDWA program and that there are implementation challenges both in federal implementation and individual state program activities. WHO updates cyanobacteria guide The World Health Organization (WHO) published the second edition of its “ Toxic Cyanobacteria in Water ,” updating an edition dating back to 1999. The provisional drinking water health guidelines included differ in part from existing EPA health advisories for microcystins and cylindrospermopsin and the current Health Canada cyanotoxin guideline . There are also health advisory levels for anatoxin and saxitoxin, as well as recreational guidelines. Other chapters address developments in understanding around occurrence, monitoring, and management and treatment.