ACWA Member Advocacy Helps Move Infrastructure Bill Closer to Success

  • by Dave Eggerton
  • Aug 20, 2021
  • Voices on Water

Amid a deepening drought and another raging wildfire season, August provided a welcome respite from the steady drumbeat of bad news in California water. A successful display of bipartisanship moved a more than $1 trillion infrastructure bill out of the U.S. Senate.

The Senate’s passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act represents a victory for Western states and every community in California. Its roughly $13 billion invested in the region would repair aging dams and canals; build new surface and groundwater storage and conveyance facilities; fund water conservation and recycling projects; help combat and reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire; and enhance watershed management and improve ecosystems. 

Overall, this critical funding would help address the current drought and assist communities in preparing for the effects of climate change. It proposes an “every tool in the toolbox” approach long supported by ACWA. 

Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Sen. Alex Padilla deserve much credit for their essential leadership in securing the bill’s passage. Together with the invaluable assistance of our Federal Affairs Committee and inspired by the dedication of so many of our member agencies who have joined us in walking the halls of Congress year-after-year championing the necessity of federal investments in water infrastructure, ACWA’s staff in Washington D.C. dedicated many long days and nights to this vitally important cause. And throughout this arduous journey, we relied heavily on the expertise and relationships of many of our member agencies, who are some of the absolute best in our business in state and federal advocacy. 

We also closely collaborated with our partners in a nationwide coalition of agriculture and water organizations.  This coalition includes more than 220 organizations from 15 states that collectively represent $120 billion in agricultural production — nearly one-third of all agricultural production in the country — and many of the local and regional public water agencies that supply water to more than 75 million urban, suburban and rural Americans.

Of course, the infrastructure bill is far from a done deal. Securing passage through the House could well involve running another gauntlet. However, I remain confident that the hard work of our federal team, committed membership and our expansive coalition will ultimately deliver billions of dollars in federal investment in Western water infrastructure, whether by further bipartisan legislation, the reconciliation process, or both.

Changing Western hydrological conditions and growing demands on our region’s water resources require immediate federal investments in repairing aging water infrastructure and developing new sources of water supply. The infrastructure package also represents a historic opportunity to aid in the nation’s economic revitalization. Both workers and the economy will benefit from the increased demand for equipment and materials these water projects will require from American companies. 

The daily hardships of catastrophic wildfire and extreme drought across the West should speak for themselves in making the case for federal investment now. Yet, we know it requires the addition of our many voices as the trustees of local water management to effectuate change in Washington. This is why ACWA member agencies must persevere in our shared determination to see good legislation succeed and ultimately put tax dollars to work where they’re needed the most – securing the future of our state by giving us the tools to secure its future water supply.

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