Congress Adopts Major Water Legislation: $4.4 billion Authorized for State Drinking Water Revolving Loan Fund

On September 13 the U.S. House of Representatives adopted the House Amendment to S. 3021, The America’s Infrastructure Act of 2018.  S.3021 passed the U.S. Senate earlier on September 4.  The House Amendment to S. 3021 is a bicameral and bipartisan compromise on components of three major pieces of water legislation, namely the House and Senate versions of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) and the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) adopted last year by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Section-by-Section of Legislation

Click here for a section-by-section summary of the legislation.

In General

In general, the major provisions of the legislation include:

Authorization for $3.7 billion for projects.  This authorization was created through cost savings of $4 billion by eliminating funding for water projects that are no longer viable.  In a preliminary cost estimate the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that implementing the legislation would decrease direct spending by $333 million over the 2019-2028 period mostly because it would direct the Department of Energy to sell 5 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in 2028, which would increase net offsetting receipts by $340 million.  Also, the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) expects that some of the funds authorized to be appropriated for capitalization grants to State Revolving Funds would be used by state and local governments to leverage additional funds by issuing tax-exempt bonds. JCT estimates that the issuance of additional tax-exempt bonds would reduce federal revenues by $103 million over the 2019-2028 period.

Title I authorizes Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) civil works activities including improvements to U.S. ports, inland waterways, locks & dams, flood protection and ecosystem restoration.  Provisions are also included that will help alleviate regulatory hurdles on projects while improving oversight and transparency.  Feasibility studies on water resources development projects are also authorized, along with modifications to existing projects and new projects across the U.S.

Title II includes provisions offering significant investment and modernization of U.S. drinking water infrastructure. $4.4 billion is authorized over three years for the state drinking water revolving loan fund program.  The funding is directed to assistance for:

  • states and utilities with compliance and asset management,
  • updates to anti-terrorism and resilience measures at public water systems, and
  • improves transparency for consumers about the quality of drinking water.

Title III provides regulatory relief for the approval processes for improvements to hydropower.  Hydropower is one of the cheapest ways to generate electricity and the U.S. is a world leader in hydroelectric dams.


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