The National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) have announced their support of the Low-Income Water Customer Assistance Programs Act (S.3564) a newly proposed bill that aims to amend the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Federal Water Pollution Control Act by establishing pilot programs to assist low-income households in maintaining access to sanitation services and drinking water, among other things.
The legislation, officially unveiled by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) with support from co-sponsor, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), represents a critical step forward in helping address the daunting affordability challenges facing public drinking water and clean water utilities across the nation.
"This bipartisan legislation demonstrates that water affordability, and the federal government's role in helping address it, is not a Democrat vs. Republican issue or an urban vs. rural community issue," says Adam Krantz, NACWA's Chief Executive Officer. "Instead, it demonstrates that water affordability challenges impact all Americans in all parts of the country, and these challenges require a unified, national approach that acknowledges the need for local communities to raise rates to cover the cost of service, while also providing assistance to those ratepayers most impacted by increased rates. If the federal government views food, heating, and cooling as basic needs that warrant federal assistance for those who can't afford them, then water should certainly qualify for assistance as well."
As NACWA's Cost of Clean Water Index shows, the average residential cost for clean water services has outstripped the Consumer Price Index over the past decade, and these costs are expected to continue rising well into the future. Further, nonpartisan research shows that more than 95% of investment in water and sewer infrastructure is funded locally – and local governments and their ratepayers will continue to bear the vast majority of increased rates.
Much of these rising costs are related to unfunded federal mandates, alongside challenges like aging infrastructure, which NACWA believes the federal government can help support by providing essential financial assistance to low-income ratepayers that will be most disproportionately impacted as rates are increased to cover a utility's true cost of service for environmental and public health protection.
NACWA represents public wastewater and stormwater agencies through legislative, regulatory, and legal advocacy on the full spectrum of clean water issues.