Congressman invites water leaders to support WIFIA bill

May 2012, Vol. 67 No. 5

U.S. Congressman Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio) recently urged water utility leaders to ask their Congressional representatives to co-sponsor draft legislation that would create a federal Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Authority (WIFIA).

Speaking before more than 160 water utility leaders from the American Water Works Association (AWWA) and the Water Environment Federation (WEF), Rep. Gibbs said WIFIA would do more to address water infrastructure needs at a lower cost to utilities and the consumers they serve.

“Safe, reliable water systems are too often taken for granted,” said Gibbs, chair of the U.S. House Subcommittee for Water Resources and Environment, which is reviewing the draft WIFIA legislation. “A Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Authority would help Americans meet our enormous water infrastructure challenge without adding to the long-term federal deficit. WIFIA will help America address more water infrastructure needs at a lower cost to water consumers.”

Rep. Gibbs stressed that the bill would complement and supplement existing water infrastructure funding mechanisms such as State Revolving Funds (SRFs). According to an AWWA report issued Feb. 27, costs will exceed $1 trillion over the next 25 years to meet repair and expand drinking water infrastructure. The report, titled “Buried No Longer: Confronting America's Water Infrastructure Challenge,” observed that wastewater costs are thought to be similar.

Leaders from both AWWA and WEF testified Feb. 28 before the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment in support of draft WIFIA legislation, and a second hearing was held on March 21. The mechanism would access U.S. Treasury funds to provide low-interest loans, loan guarantees, or other credit support to local communities. Loan repayments – with interest – and guarantee fees would flow back to WIFIA and into the Treasury – again, with interest. Eligible water infrastructure projects would include water, wastewater and wet weather related projects.

The U.S. Department of Commerce has estimated that every dollar spent on water infrastructure generates $2.62 in the private economy. For every job added to the water workforce, about 3.68 jobs are added nationally.