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Bipartisan Legislation for Water Infrastructure Improvements

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U.S. Congressman Henry Cuellar (D-TX-28) and U.S. Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ-4) introduced the Water Infrastructure Enhancement Act of 2023. This legislation creates a grant program within the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for public water system infrastructure improvements. Image Sources: Image Source: United States Congress, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
U.S. Congressman Henry Cuellar (D-TX-28) and U.S. Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ-4) introduced the Water Infrastructure Enhancement Act of 2023. This legislation creates a grant program within the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for public water system infrastructure improvements. Image Sources: Image Source: United States Congress, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Congressman Henry Cuellar (D-TX-28) and U.S. Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ-4) introduced the Water Infrastructure Enhancement Act of 2023. This legislation creates a grant program within the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for public water system infrastructure improvements.

The grant program would fund upgrades and new installations to every facet of public water systems, including water treatment facilities and distribution pipes. This program will build on the historic investments made in our nation’s water infrastructure by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021. The bill also requires that at least 50% of funds be used in rural areas, and no less than 15% be used in historically disadvantaged communities or areas with a persistent poverty rate of 20% or higher.

“During an unprecedented heat wave, the hard-working people of Laredo shouldn’t have to endure the current boil water notice,” said Congressman Cuellar. “The Water Infrastructure Enhancement Act of 2023 provides the essential investment needed to improve our nation’s water infrastructure, particularly in rural and underserved communities. South Texas needs better water infrastructure, and I am committed to making that happen. Thank you to my colleague, Congressman Chris Smith, for working with me across the aisle to ensure safe and reliable water for Americans, no matter their ZIP code.”

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“In 2022, the Texas Rural Water Association (TRWA), whose member-utilities provide millions of Texans with water and wastewater services, took a survey of Texas’ rural water systems that serve populations of 50,000 or less. These systems reported that over 57% of their water lines are over 40 years old which is beyond their useful life of 35 years and over 70% of their water lines were over 20 years old. TRWA thanks Representative Cuellar for this bill which will fund projects to fix thousands of miles of leaking pipes, save billions of gallons of water, and keep Texas’ economic miracle going,” said Lara Zent, Executive Director and General Counsel of the Texas Rural Water Association.

According to a recent report from the EPA, $473 billion is needed to maintain and improve the nation’s drinking water infrastructure over the next 20 years, including $45 billion for Texas alone. The majority of this funding is needed to replace aging pipelines. Nationally, there are approximately 240,000 water main breaks every year. This jeopardizes local water supplies leading to all-too-common boil water notices. 

Although 2021’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act made historic investments in our nation’s water infrastructure, funding is still needed to strengthen the quality and resiliency of our water systems. State and local governments have increasingly had to cover more costs to make water infrastructure improvements, with the federal government’s share of funding for water utilities falling from 31 percent in 1977 to just under 4 percent in 2017. This bill will provide funding needed to ensure residents have safe and reliable water by authorizing $800 million per year for water infrastructure improvements.

For more information on the Water Infrastructure Enhancement Act of 2023, please click here.

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