Two US water sector organisations have come together to launch a campaign to increase federal investment in water infrastructure for public health and environmental protection reasons.
The National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) and the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA) launched "Affordable Water, Resilient Communities" on 1 February, highlighting affordability challenges facing water utilities and customers.
Drawing attention to the fact that the federal share of water infrastructure has dropped to less than five per cent, the campaign appeals for additional federal funding to address the affordability issues that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The lack of federal investment, combined with the rising water compliance costs, has driven up household water utility bills which is disproportionately affecting low-income families.
Despite the first ever Low-Income Water Customer Assistance Program (LIWCAP) being introduced in Congress’s COVID-19 relief bill in December 2020, Adam Krantz, NACWA’s Chief Executive Officer, insists that this is not enough, and Congress must go a step further to support low-income households with rising water bills.
Referring to the impact of the pandemic on rising water costs Krantz said: “The sector estimates more than an $8 billion shortfall in customer bill arrearages as a result of the pandemic – a steep increase that underscores a major challenge that existed for years.
Mr Krantz went on to discuss the aims of the campaign, adding that he hopes it will: “persuade Congress to act to make the LIWCAP permanent, provide direct relief to water utilities that have struggled as a result of the pandemic, and restore a strong federal investment partner in water infrastructure to meet legacy and new challenges facing water utilities around the U.S.”
US President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which was announced 20 January, proposes a $5 billion investment to cover water costs for low-income renters which will potentially be distributed through the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) later this year.