Clean and safe drinking water is a necessity. We all need clean water, and it must be a priority for every community in our country. In the places where we do not have the assurance that water flowing through the faucets is safe, inadequate infrastructure should be addressed. I led a bipartisan letter urging Senate appropriators to dedicate robust funding to the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF). These state revolving funds (SRF) programs help boost water quality initiatives in all states to increase access to clean drinking water for all Americans.
Helping cash-strapped communities with timely improvements to aging water delivery systems has been a longtime focus. When I served as Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Water, I conducted a hearing in 2004 to review the detection of lead in Washington, D.C., drinking water when increased lead levels led to a public health scare. The review focused on D.C. as a specific example and warning to all cities to mitigate similar circumstances. Since, we have seen other examples, such as in Flint, Michigan, where water quality issues have highlighted the importance of investing in safe and clean water infrastructure.
Congress must ensure appropriate federal funds are available to assist with this effort. I led the bipartisan letter with fellow U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-Rhode Island), which was signed by 49 senators including fellow Idaho Senator Jim Risch, to highlight the importance of adequate federal funding to sustain critical water infrastructure. We wrote, “Maintaining a state of good repair of our nation's drinking water infrastructure is critical to protecting public health by ensuring reliable delivery of safe drinking water to millions of Americans. Every day, communities face significant losses and damage from broken water and sewer mains, sewage overflows, and other problems due to infrastructure that is reaching the end of its useful life cycle. SRFs help address these conditions by investing in short- and long-term improvements to water and wastewater infrastructure in states and communities across the nation.”
I commend the towns across Idaho and our nation that deliver clean water while facing costly requirements and growing pressures on our water resources. We expressed concern with estimates indicating nearly 2,000 water systems have elevated levels of lead in their drinking water. Across our country, urban and rural water systems continually need updating and replacing. These upgrades are expensive, and the time and capital costs resulting from fixing water infrastructure come at an even greater expense when they arise in reaction to a crisis. The CWSRF assists communities with low-cost financing for water quality infrastructure projects. The DWSRF provides financial support to ensure safe drinking water.
Water infrastructure investments safeguard public health and support jobs. As we stressed in our appeal to our fellow senators, “Given the importance of water and wastewater infrastructure to the health and well-being of the American people as well as to the national economy, it is critical that the federal government remain a reliable partner in meeting the nation's clean water and safe drinking water needs.” As we address federal funding challenges, enabling these projects must be a priority in annual, federal funding legislation. I will continue to work for strong investment in these revolving funds to help with this effort. All water systems need to work reliably everywhere for everyone.