Rep. Gabbard Introduces Bill To Upgrade Water Infrastructure

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Rep. Tulsi Gabbard joined lawmakers in introducing legislation to upgrade and protect community water and sewer systems across the country. The Water Affordability, Transparency, Equity and Reliability (WATER) Act would authorize $35 billion a year to improve drinking water and wastewater services in states nationwide, including renovating old and lead-ridden water pipes, and stopping sewage overflows, and other problems stemming from a national water affordability crisis. The bill would also create an estimated 700,000 to 945,000 new middle-class jobs. Over 90% of Hawai‘i’s drinking water is from groundwater, and Hawai‘i has more cesspools than any other state — half of which are located in areas that require urgent action.

The WATER Act is supported by numerous organizations including Alliance for Democracy; EarthJustice; EcoWorks; Food & Water Watch; National Nurses United; Progressive Democrats of America; Public Citizen; Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP); Water Alliance; American Federation of Teachers, American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America and more.

Rep. Gabbard said: Years of neglecting our water infrastructure has spurred water contamination crises across the country in places like Flint, MI; Philadelphia, PA; Baltimore, MD; among others. According to a 2017 report, Hawai‘i needs an estimated $1.05 billion in drinking water investment over the next twenty years to ensure safe water for our people. Ensuring safe, affordable, and accessible water for all is not a political issue – it’s a basic human right that is essential for life. Our legislation would make consistent investments in critical water and wastewater infrastructure a priority for our federal government, and take the steps that are sorely needed now to protect health and wellness for generations to come.”


Background: The Water Affordability, Transparency, Equity and Reliability (WATER) Act of 2018 would create a WATER Trust Fund, and dedicate $35 billion each year to grant programs and to Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving Loan (SRF) programs. This legislation would provide dedicated annual federal support to:

  • Fully fund the Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving Funds;
  • Provide additional technical assistance to rural and small municipalities and Native American governments;
  • Increase funding to construct, repair and service household drinking water wells;
  • Create a new grant program for the repair, replacement or upgrading of household septic tanks and drainage fields;
  • Increase funding to Native American governments for water infrastructure;
  • Require EPA to coordinate a study about water affordability, discrimination by water and sewer providers, public participation in water regionalization efforts, and water shutoffs;
  • Restrict Drinking Water SRF funding to publicly or locally owned systems;
  • Provide funding for public schools to test and replace drinking water infrastructure; and
  • Provide grants to replace lead service lines serving households.


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