More money to improve drinking water

And now some good news on drinking water.

It seems like I don’t often get to write about good things happening in the drinking water world, so today is a nice change of pace.  Rep. Waxman, Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Rep. Markey, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, on Monday introduced the Assistance, Quality, and Affordability Act of 2010 (AQUA) that if enacted, will add some great provisions to the Safe Drinking Water Act.

As I’ve mentioned before, our drinking water infrastructure is aging and in desperate need of upgrading.  It will take some serious money to do that; in 2007, EPA estimated that we need $334 billion over the next 20 years to protect public health and ensure compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act.  The primary source of that money has been the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DW SRF), which provides funds to states for infrastructure improvement projects. 

The  AQUA would authorize a much needed increase in funding for the DW SRF ($1.5 billion in 2011, $2 billion in 2012 and 2013, $3.2 billion in 2014, and $6 billion in 2015.)  Even though this is a very small percentage of the total need,  it is a vast improvement over the previous years, where the amount of funds actually appropriated by Congress never reached $900 million. 

But that’s not all.  AQUA also provides incentives for public drinking water systems to ensure that they can better provide clean and affordable drinking water to their customers well into the future.  Greater weight will be given to applications for funding that include, for example, measures to improve a system’s efficiency or reduce its environmental impact.  AQUA also gives special priority to poor communities that have a harder time meeting  drinking water standards.

These are all good things.  Hopefully it means we’ll be hearing less about massive water main breaks that keep millions of people out of drinking water for days and more about innovative plans to conserve our precious drinking water.