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New Water Infrastructure Legislation Passed by the Senate Includes Baldwin’s “Buy America” Reform

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin worked to include several provisions that will benefit Wisconsin communities, manufacturers, businesses and workers in the bipartisan Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act of 2021 (DWWIA) that passed the Senate 89-2 and now heads to the House for further consideration. 

“Too often, small and underserved communities lack the resources they need to solve our most pressing water challenges, including lead and other contaminants. This bipartisan legislation will help provide Wisconsin with the federal investment we need to help provide clean and safe drinking water across our state,” said Senator Baldwin. “We need to invest in our communities and rebuild our water infrastructure. We need to support made in Wisconsin water technology and innovation, and rebuild our nation’s water infrastructure with American workers and American-made products. This bipartisan legislation does that and will advance public health and our economy in Wisconsin.”

This is the first infrastructure bill passed by the Senate in the 117th Congress and will help  advance the goals of President Biden’s American Jobs Plan to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure.

Millions of Americans do not have consistent access to clean drinking water, and many more live in areas where a storm or natural disaster could devastate water systems, leading to damaged infrastructure, disrupted service, or contamination of water sources. The bipartisan DWWIA will strengthen our infrastructure in a way that creates good-paying jobs, prioritizes communities that have been too often left behind, and helps ensure that all Americans have access to safe, clean water.

Senator Baldwin worked to secure the following reforms in the Senate passed legislation:

Establish a Permanent Commitment to American Iron and Steel for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund

Senator Baldwin’s reform will establish a permanent requirement that the iron and steel used in the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Drinking Water State Revolving Fund are made in America. This is a key component of Senator Baldwin’s bipartisan Made in America Act that was introduced in Congress earlier this year.

Eliminate Lead in Drinking Water

Senator Baldwin worked to make sure the legislation includes an increase in funding to address lead in drinking water systems, and includes new tools to help communities that are facing the most acute challenges. The bipartisan legislation reauthorizes EPA’s lead reduction projects grant program and increases the program’s authorization to $100 million annually through fiscal year 2026. This grant money can be used at the local level for lead reduction projects, including the replacement of publicly-owned lead service lines; testing, planning, or other relevant activities, as determined by the Administrator, to identify and address conditions that contribute to increased concentration of lead in water for human consumption; and providing assistance to low-income homeowners to replace lead service lines. Additionally, the DWWIA creates a pilot program funded at $10 million to provide grants to carry out lead reduction projects in water systems that, like the City of Milwaukee, have or are suspected to have lead in at least 30 percent of their service lines.

Improve Access to Clean Drinking Water

Senator Baldwin worked to make sure the legislation addresses several problems communities face ensuring everyone has clean water, regardless of their income or where they live. The DWWIA reauthorizes the Assistance for Small and Disadvantaged Communities Program, which includes tools for communities to help them respond to water emergencies that they do not have local capacity to address. Through a new program on operational sustainability under the Safe Drinking Water Act, the legislation provides states more tools to provide assistance to disadvantaged and under-resourced communities through grants and other tools to cover costs the community is unable to.  It also includes tools to address contaminants at the household level, by making funding available to provide filters and public education on water contamination. In addition, the legislation includes a pilot program to find new and better solutions for addressing water access for people who are unable to pay their water bills.

Advance Innovative Water Technologies

Senator Baldwin has long championed using innovative water technology to address our pressing water challenges, and this legislation will invest in infrastructure in a smarter, safer way.  The DWWIA helps address workforce development in innovative water infrastructure, provides funds to help communities fund these new tools, and helps find ways to better utilize water technology resources to benefit ratepayers and communities. Specifically, the legislation invests a total of $50 million in the deployment of drinking water infrastructure technology that is new or emerging, but proven to enhance the treatment, monitoring, affordability, efficiency, and safety of drinking water in small and underserved communities. The DWWI also establishes a grant program funded at $15 million annually for state and local governments in coastal areas with significant pollution levels or substantial wastewater infrastructure deficits to encourage information sharing among communities regarding water quality, water infrastructure needs, and water technology. The bipartisan legislation also invests $300 million over the next five years in programs that will fund research, education, and deployment of new storm water control technology, and seek to improve the energy efficiency of wastewater systems.