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Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence

Representing the 14th District of Michigan

Reps. Lawrence and Khanna Introduce the WATER Act to Address Water Justice in America

February 28, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Rep. Brenda Lawrence and Rep. Ro Khanna introduced legislation to address access to clean, safe, and affordable drinking water in America.  The Water Affordability, Transparency, Equity and Reliability (WATER) Act of 2019 is a comprehensive solution that creates a WATER Trust Fund dedicating $35 billion for water infrastructure improvements across the United States.

“Our nation’s drinking water infrastructure is in a state of emergency. Families across the country have lost access to clean, safe, and affordable drinking water. This is unacceptable,” said Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence. “This water crisis is not unique to my Congressional District, it affects every corner of our country. This is why I am proud to introduce the WATER Act of 2019; a bill about delivering justice, righting wrongs, and reaffirms that water is a human right. This robust effort for water justice is long overdue.”

“Fourteen million U.S. households are struggling to pay for water that too often isn't even safe to drink,” said Congressman Ro Khanna. “Decades of federal underinvestment has left many communities, particularly low-income and minority neighborhoods, with leaky and contaminated water systems. It's past time that we ensure everyone in this country has access to the most basic human need: clean drinking water.”

“It is beyond belief that in 2019 American kids are being poisoned by tap water. It is critical that we work to improve our nation’s crumbling water infrastructure,” said Senator Sanders. “Not only do we allow corporations to pollute our waterways, but government has failed to keep up with critically needed improvements to our drinking water and wastewater infrastructure. We should not privatize water and wastewater services, which would drive up prices and reduce access to clean water. Instead, federal agencies like the EPA and USDA should support local communities as they work to carry out these necessary infrastructure improvements.”

“Every American, from schoolchildren to seniors, should be able to turn on their tap and access clean, safe drinking water,” said Senator Merkley. “The fact that this is not the case in 2019 is appalling and unacceptable. It’s time to make long-overdue investments in our nation’s water infrastructure and create good jobs in communities across the country at the same time.”

"The WATER Act is an important piece of the fair and just transition we must have to ensure resiliency in the face of mounting climate chaos,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “It represents a commitment to clean water for all, now and into an uncertain future -- and it will create nearly a million jobs in the process."

"We may live in a divided country, but one thing we can agree on is the need for clean and safe drinking water,” said George Goehl, Director of People’s Action. “Across race, place and partisanship, we expect government to play an active role in ensuring water quality.  We also agree that the corporations that pollute our water should clean up their mess. The WATER Act is a chance to do both, reducing the threat of toxic water in our homes and neighborhoods."

“Hoosick Falls is my home. It’s also a casualty of industrial pollution that’s left its toxic mark on my family and my neighbors’ families,” said Michael Hickey, a resident affected by per- and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) contamination in the area’s water. “The EPA is failing to do its job to protect us, so Congress must step up by supporting the WATER Act to ensure clean, safe and affordable water across the country. The provisions to provide grants to water systems affected by PFAS contamination will be a lifeline where EPA has miserably failed us.”




Background on the WATER Act of 2019:


The Water Affordability, Transparency, Equity and Reliability (WATER) Act of 2019 would create a trust fund to support the nation’s drinking water and clean water infrastructure. As much as $35 billion a year would be dedicated without further appropriation to drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, creating up to nearly a million jobs throughout the economy. The bill

Key provisions:
1) Provides $35 billion a year to drinking water and wastewater improvements;
2) Creates a water trust fund;
3) Creates up to nearly 1 million jobs across the economy and protect American workers;
4) Prioritizes disadvantaged communities with grants and additional support;
5) Expands funding for technical assistance to small, rural, and indigenous communities;
6) Funds projects to address water contamination from PFAS;
7) Requires US EPA to study water affordability, shutoffs, discrimination, and civil rights violations by water providers;
8) Upgrades household wells and septic systems;
9) Helps homeowners replace lead service lines; and
10) Provides more than $1 billion a year to update water infrastructure in public schools.

The WATER Act of 2019 is endorsed by over 140 national, state, and local organizations including: Food and Water Watch; American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME); American Federation of Teachers (AFT); Partnership for Working Families; Communication Workers of America (CWA); Clean Water Action; Citizens for Water; Corporate Accountability; In the Public Interest; Local Progress; NAACP; National Education Association (NEA); People Demanding Action; People's Action; Public Citizen; Greenpeace; UAW; United Steelworkers.