Water Infrastructure Bill Passes Senate Committee, But for Naught

By Stephen Barlas, Washington Editor | November 2008 Vol. 63 No. 11

A Senate committee’s passage of an important water infrastructure bill at the end of September was encouraging, but unfortunately not decisive.

The full Senate did not pass the Water Infrastructure Financing Act (S. 3500) before Congress left town in early October to campaign for the Nov. 4 election. That bill reauthorizes both the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) and the Drinking Water SRF at annual funding levels far above what Congress has been appropriating annually. Even had the Senate passed the bill, the House had passed a separate bill called the Water Quality Financing Act (H.R. 720) which only reauthorized the CWSRF, and a level of $14 billion over four years, the same level as in the Senate bill, which also gave the DWSRF $9 billion over the same period. The House did not pass a DWSRF reauthorization, however.

Susan Bruninga, director, legislative & public affairs, National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA), noted that the higher authorization levels are important as signals to the appropriations committees that more money is needed by those programs. Whether the Appropriations Committees in both houses listen is another story. As far as appropriations for the SRFs, Congress passed what is called a continuing resolution funding most federal programs at fiscal year 2008 levels until March 2009. Fiscal 2009 began on Oct. 1, 2008. That means that for the first five months of fiscal 2009 the CWSRF and DRSRF will be allowed to spend at 2008 levels, which were $689.1 million and $829 million.