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Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence

Representing the 14th District of Michigan

U.S. Reps. Lawrence and Khanna and Sen. Sanders Reintroduce the WATER Act to Address Water Justice in America

February 25, 2021
Press Release
Bill endorsed by over 500 national, state, and local organizations

Washington, DC - Today, U.S. Representatives Brenda L. Lawrence (MI-14) and Ro Khanna (CA-17) reintroduced legislation, with 74 House and Senate original cosponsors, to increase access to clean, safe, and affordable drinking water in America. The Water Affordability, Transparency, Equity, and Reliability (WATER) Act of 2021 is a comprehensive solution that creates a WATER Trust Fund, which dedicates nearly $35 billion towards water infrastructure improvements across the United States. Earlier today, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced the Senate companion to this legislation.

 

“We have a water crisis in the United States that affects every corner of our country. You’re seeing it right now in Texas, and we’ve witnessed it here in Michigan as well. The longer we wait to act on this issue, the worse it will get for the health, well-being, and safety of the American people,” said Rep. Lawrence. “I’m proud to lead the fight with Rep. Khanna and Sen. Sanders to reintroduce the WATER Act and invest in our nation’s water infrastructure. Access to clean and safe drinking water is a basic human right.”

 

“Nearly a year into this global pandemic, every American should have reliable access to safe drinking water,” said Rep. Khanna. “It’s no coincidence the communities with the highest rates of coronavirus infections are the same ones with dirty water. The systematic underinvestment in working-class cities & neighborhoods must end. I’m proud to re-introduce the WATER Act with Rep. Lawrence, and push this country one step closer to providing equitable services to every one of our residents.”

 

“It is beyond belief that in 2021 American kids are being poisoned by tap water. It is critical that we work to improve our nation’s crumbling water infrastructure,” said Sen. Sanders. “Not only do we allow corporations to pollute our waterways, but the 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, the federal government should make massive investments in water infrastructure, and that’s one of the issues I intend to focus on in the next round of budget reconciliation. We must support local communities in their work to carry out these necessary infrastructure improvements.”

 

“When you turn on your faucet at home or when your child takes a drink from the fountain at school, you should have peace of mind that the water is safe and toxin-free,” said AFSCME President Lee Saunders. “But for too many families and neighborhoods nationwide, even something as basic as clean drinking water is out of reach. Years of austerity measures and privatization schemes have eroded the infrastructure in poor, marginalized communities, exposing people to lead and other poisons. AFSCME thanks Sen. Sanders and Rep. Lawrence for providing the federal leadership we need to address this injustice, and we look forward to working with them to pass the WATER Act of 2021.”

 

“From the plague of water shutoffs during a pandemic for countless families with unaffordable bills, to the recent heartbreaking scenes across the South of frozen pipes leaving millions without water to drink and bathe, it has become desperately clear that our country is in a water crisis. Grave crises require robust solutions, and this is just what the WATER Act provides,” said Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Action. “The WATER Act paves the way to rebuilding our failing water system by addressing maintenance and modernization, cleanliness and safety, affordability and social justice - all in one clean sweep. The time for Congress and the Biden administration to make this critical legislation a priority has very clearly come. Our country can’t wait any longer for a functional, safe and affordable water system in every community.”

 

"Privatization of our water systems is a threat to public health, the environment, and democracy," said Donald Cohen, Executive Director of In the Public Interest. "Water is an essential public good, not a market commodity for corporations and wealthy investors. We need direct federal investment in water infrastructure across the country. This is an opportunity for the federal government to prove it works for all of us and not just the wealthy and connected."

 

The WATER Act of 2021 would create a trust fund to support the nation’s drinking water and clean water infrastructure. Nearly $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:

 

  • Provides $34.85 billion a year to drinking water and wastewater improvements;

  • Creates a water trust fund;

  • Creates up to nearly 1 million jobs across the economy and protect American workers;

  • Prioritizes disadvantaged communities with grants and additional support;

  • Expands funding for technical assistance to small, rural, and indigenous communities;

  • Funds projects to address water contamination from PFAS;

  • Requires US EPA to study water affordability, shutoffs, discrimination, and civil rights violations by water providers;

  • Upgrades household wells and septic systems;

  • Helps homeowners replace lead service lines; and

  • Provides more than $1 billion a year to update water infrastructure in public schools.
     

The WATER Act of 2021 is endorsed by 540 national, state, and local organizations including: Food & Water Watch; American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME); American Federation of Teachers (AFT); Partnership for Working Families; Communications Workers of America (CWA); Clean Water Action; Citizens for Water; Corporate Accountability; In the Public Interest; Local Progress; NAACP; People Demanding Action; People's Action; Public Citizen; Greenpeace; UAW; and United Steelworkers. For a full list of organizations, click here.

 

The House bill, led by Reps. Lawrence and Khanna, is cosponsored by Reps. Mike Doyle (PA-18), Ruben Gallego (AZ-07), Chellie Pingree (ME-01), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Nanette Diaz Barragán (CA-44), Andy Levin (MI-09), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-At-Large), Mondaire Jones (NY-17), Chrissy Houlahan (PA-06), Kathleen Rice (NY-04), Hank Johnson (GA-04), Jerrold Nadler (NY-10), André Carson (IN-07), Haley Stevens (MI-11), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Sean Casten (IL-06), Joyce Beatty (OH-03), Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30), Jamie Raskin (MD-08), Gwen Moore (WI-04), Nydia Velázquez (NY-07), Marie Newman (IL-03), Bill Foster (IL-11), Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20), Steve Cohen (TN-09), Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Gerald E. Connolly (VA-11), Andy Kim (NJ-03), Richard Neal (MA-01), Grace Meng (NY-06), Mark Desaulnier (CA-11), Doris Matsui (CA-06), Jared Huffman (CA-02), Cheri Bustos (IL-07), Antonio Delgado (NY-19), Peter Welch (VT-At-large), Albio Sires (NJ-08), Al Lawson (FL-05), Judy Chu (CA-27), Thomas R. Suozzi (NY-03), Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12), Bennie G. Thompson (MS-02), John Yarmuth (KY-03), Raul M. Grijalva (AZ-03), Bobby L. Rush (IL-01), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), Pramilia Jayapal (WA-07), Cori Bush (MO-01), Kweisi Mfume (MD-07), Elissa Slotkin (MI-08), Yvette Clarke (NY-09), Madeleine Dean (PA-04), Ilhan Omar (MN-05), David Cicilline (RI-01), Matt Cartwright (PA-08), Ted Lieu (CA-33), Brendan Boyle (PA-02), Jahana Hayes (CT-05), Jamaal Bowman (NY-16), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Karen Bass (CA-37), Rashida Tlaib (MI-13), Mark Pocan (WI-02), C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (MD-02), Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE-At-Large), Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), Grace F. Napolitano (CA-32), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Jake Auchincloss (MA-04), Teresa Leger Fernandez (NM-03), and Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01). 

 

The Senate bill, led by Sen. Sanders, is cosponsored by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR).