Last week President Joe Biden announced a $2 trillion infrastructure and jobs plan that includes $111 billion to improve water systems, reports the New York Post.
The Biden Administration calls it The American Jobs Plan. It estimates 6 to 10 million homes still receive their drinking water through lead pipes and service lines. To eliminate lead water pipes, the plan includes a $45 billion investment in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and in Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (WIIN) grants. It will target lead exposure in homes, as well as in 400,000 schools and childcare facilities.
Recognising that ageing water systems threaten public health in communities across the nation, the plan will allocate $56 billion towards upgrading drinking water, wastewater and stormwater systems. Scaling up existing programs, the money will go to states, Tribes, territories and disadvantaged communities, in the form of grants and low-cost flexible loans.
The President’s package also provides $10 billion in funds “to monitor and remediate PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) in drinking water and to invest in rural small water systems and household well and wastewater systems, including drainage fields".
In addition, the plan calls for $50 billion to improve infrastructure resilience. The investments will safeguard critical infrastructure and services against climate-driven disasters, as well as maximise the resilience of land and water resources, including “funding for the western drought crisis by investing in water efficiency and recycling programs”.
Observers from the water sector look forward to further detail on how the plan will unfold and become a reality. The details of the funding are particularly important with regard to lead service line replacement. Communities experiencing financial problems may struggle to repay loans from state revolving funds, and states may be reluctant to provide the 20% of matching funds required of them. Sara Hughes from the University of Michigan told Circle of Blue new funds to replace lead pipes should target low income communities, less able to absorb increases in water rates. As Biden recognised during a speech to announce the plan “Too often, investments have failed to meet the needs of marginalized communities left behind”.