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Congressman John Conyers

Representing the 13th District of Michigan

Congressman John Conyers Introduces Bill to Help Address Nation’s Looming Water Infrastructure Crisis

May 24, 2016
Press Release

Washington, D.C. — Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (MI-13) today introduced the Water Affordability, Transparency, Equity and Reliability (WATER) Act. This legislation would provide nearly $35 billion annually to modernize U.S. water infrastructure. The WATER Act funds infrastructure projects by closing a loophole on offshore corporate profits. The WATER Act would make these profits subject to U.S. tax in the year they are generated and ensure that all funds would go to publicly-owned water systems, rather than for-profit providers.

“Decades of underinvestment have made water a luxury for far too many,” said Congressman Conyers. “We have seen the repercussions of inaction in places like Flint and Washington, D.C. where children were poisoned by lead; and in Detroit, where decades of delayed maintenance have led to widespread water shutoffs. I introduced the WATER Act because our children, families and communities deserve access to clean, safe drinking water and that starts with making the proper investments in our critical water infrastructure.”

More than 11,200 community water systems have lead service lines, some of which provide water to schools. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates roughly $697 billion is needed to upgrade our drinking water and wastewater systems over the next 20 years.  Without adequate federal support, communities often have to compensate for the funding gap by raising service rates, which some households cannot afford, leading some—including thousands of Detroiters—to be cut off from water and sewer service. Current failing service lines pose a danger to the environment, and wastewater overflows threaten public health. Congressman Conyers introduced the WATER Act to help ensure access to safe, clean, affordable water service.

The WATER Act would allow states to issue grants to replace lead service lines and would establish a School Drinking Water Improvement Grant program to provide funding to public primary and secondary schools that wish to test, repair, replace or install the infrastructure necessary for drinking water foundations or bottle filling stations. Additionally, the WATER Act creates a new grant program to help households install, repair, replace and upgrade septic tanks and drainage fields. The legislation also amends the existing Tribal grant program to increase the amount of assistance from 1.5 percent of Drinking Water SRF funds to 3 percent.

The legislation is cosponsored by Reps. Brenda Lawrence (MI-14), Gwen Moore (WI-4), Cheri Bustos (IL-17), Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-3), Hank Johnson (GA-4), Mark Pocan (WI-2) and Jan Schakowsky (IL-9). It is endorsed by Food & Water Watch, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP), Water You Fighting For (Flint, MI), Center for Biological Diversity, Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, Courage Campaign, People Demanding Action, Hip Hop Caucus, Progressive Democrats of America, We the People of Detroit, Friends of the Earth, Daily Kos and Corporate Accountability International (CAI).

A one pager on the WATER Act is attached. PDF iconWATER Act One Pager 052416.pdf