ANN ARBOR, MICH. (April 29, 2021) — The U.S. Senate passed legislation to boost the nation’s investment in water infrastructure to get at the vexing and ongoing problems of toxic lead in people’s drinking water, sewage contamination, and unaffordable water bills that are impacting millions of people in the Great Lakes region and across the country. These problems stem from the decades-long disinvestment in these essential services by the federal government. The Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act of 2021 provides new investment to upgrade drinking water and wastewater infrastructure and provides mechanisms to help target investment to communities that have been most impacted by insufficient infrastructure.

“This bill is a good step in addressing the nation’s inadequate drinking water and wastewater infrastructure that threaten the health of communities and residents,” said Laura Rubin, director of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. “The decades-long disinvestment in our nation’s water infrastructure by the federal government has put communities in an untenable and inhumane situation, saddling them with skyrocketing water bills and leaving millions of citizens without clean drinking water. The federal government can and should provide support in the form of new, robust investment to fix our water infrastructure before the problem gets worse and more expensive to solve. We support the Senate’s action today – especially provisions that help the communities most harmed by inadequate water infrastructure – and hope that it sets the stage for finally getting a strong bill across the finish line that can be signed into law by President Biden.”

The Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act of 2021 (S.914) invests more than $35 billion over 5 years to fix and update the nation’s inadequate water infrastructure. More than 40 percent can be directly used to benefit small, disadvantaged, rural, and tribal communities through additional subsidization or direct grant programs. This bill includes:

  • $14.65 billion over 5 years for drinking water infrastructure investments through the EPA’s Drinking Water State Revolving Fund;
  • $14.65 billion over 5 years for wastewater infrastructure investments through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund;
  • $1.4 billion over 5 years to cities to capture, treat, or reuse sewer overflows or stormwater.
  • $700 million over 5 years for grants to reduce lead in drinking water and directly address lead contamination in schools.

The Great Lakes states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin face more than $188 billion in needed repairs and upgrades for their water infrastructure over 20 years to meet the clean water needs of communities. Earlier this month, the American Society of Civil Engineers released its infrastructure report card, handing out scathing grades for the nation’s water infrastructure, with drinking water earning a “C-,” stormwater a “D,” and wastewater a “D+.”

The House of Representatives is also considering sweeping legislation to address the nation’s drinking water and wastewater crisis. President Biden has also put forward a national infrastructure plan.

Since 2004, the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition has been harnessing the collective power of more than 160 groups representing millions of people, whose common goal is to restore and protect the Great Lakes. Learn more at www.healthylakes.org or follow us on Twitter @healthylakes.