Chairwoman Napolitano's Statement at Hearing on Sustainable Water Infrastructure
(WASHINGTON, DC) House Transportation and Infrastructure Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Chairwoman Grace F. Napolitano (D-El Monte) delivered the following opening statement during today’s hearing titled, “Sustainable Wastewater Infrastructure: Measures to Promote Resiliency and Climate Adaptation and Mitigation.”
Today, we continue to discuss the need to renew the federal commitment to fund our clean water infrastructure challenges.
In our first subcommittee hearing of this Congress, we discussed legislative proposals to close the gap between local wastewater and stormwater needs and current levels of federal investment, as well as to ensure these critical investments are sufficient to help these communities address local water quality challenges.
The first of these proposals, approved by this committee last Congress, and ultimate approved by the House in H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act, would have provided a robust funding for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, but ultimately stalled in the Senate.
This Congress, I joined with Chairman DeFazio, and Congressman Fitzpatrick, in introducing H.R. 1915, the Water Quality Protection and Job Creation Act of 2021—a proposal that received unanimous support from the witnesses at our February hearing on “Building Back Better.”
The robust funding levels in this bipartisan proposal are critical to addressing the $270 billion backlog over the next 20 years according U.S. EPA in wastewater and stormwater upgrades identified by the states and our communities.
Similarly, in his American Jobs Plan, President Biden further stressed the importance of water and wastewater investment—not only for the number of jobs that it will create, but also for how these investments in safe, efficient, and sustainable water infrastructure are critical to the health and well-being of everyday Americans.
Let’s be clear—no one who has ever had a sewer backup in their community or home; or who has gotten sick from swimming at a contaminated river, lake, or beach; or who has questioned the safety or reliability of the water coming out of their faucet would ever say that water infrastructure is not infrastructure.
Tomorrow marks the 51st anniversary of Earth Day.
In recognition of this anniversary, it is fitting that we continue to focus on meeting our clean water infrastructure needs, but also highlight how the resilient and sustainable approaches we utilize to make this investment can both meet the goals of the Clean Water Act, but do so in a way that increases the overall protection of human health and the health of our environment.
At this moment, we are witnessing generational changes in how wastewater utilities are meeting the wastewater challenges facing our nation.
As our witnesses today will testify, many communities are leading the way in increasing the resiliency and sustainability of their wastewater utilities.
From converting wastes to energy to reducing greenhouse gas emissions of water utilities, to investing in natural and nature-based, green infrastructure alternatives to relieve pressure on existing sewer systems, to recapturing and reusing wastewater and stormwater for both the non-potable and drinking water needs of local communities, many utilities are leading by example on how to create the so-called “utility of the future.”
In fact, some communities have used the need to upgrade their wastewater infrastructure as an opportunity to reinvent themselves—using wastewater and stormwater practices to increase the livability of cities and suburbs while also addressing local water challenges.
Today’s hearing is an opportunity to reveal and explore some of these innovative and cost-effective alternatives to traditional wastewater infrastructure solutions. We must research and invest in these technologies and share the information on development and benefits amongst water agencies, so that we are not reinventing the wheel.
Today’s hearing also presents us with the opportunity to discuss some of the challenges that are preventing wider awareness or utilization of these sustainable alternatives to address local water quality needs, especially in rural, tribal, and economically disadvantaged communities.
As I mentioned earlier, we all know that the documented wastewater and stormwater needs facing our nation are great and require a renewed and robust federal commitment to help address them.
However, the country’s urgent wastewater infrastructure needs also present a major opportunity to upgrade, modernize, and increase the sustainability of the nation’s water related infrastructure.
That is our challenge—how to both increase federal investment in our wastewater infrastructure, and to make sure that these investments maximize the resiliency and sustainability of our wastewater utilities?
I look forward to continuing that discussion here this morning.