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Congressman John Conyers

Representing the 13th District of Michigan

ON WORLD WATER DAY, CONYERS REINTRODUCES BILL TO ADDRESS NATION’S WATER INFRASTRUCTURE CRISIS

March 22, 2017
Press Release

Washington, D.C. — Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (MI-13) today reintroduced 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.

“Today, we mark World Water Day 2017—where we focus on how important this fundamental resource is to life itself. Around the world, people struggle with access to safe, affordable water—sadly America is no different. Thousands of communities depend on water pipes that are a century old, unsafe, and need to be replaced,” Congressman Conyers said. “That is why I’m introducing the WATER Act of 2017, which funds a massive investment in our public water utilities and creates thousands of jobs in every community. It would help places like Flint, where lead has made the water undrinkable—or Detroit, where outdated infrastructure makes water unaffordable. In the richest country in the world—safe, affordable water in every home is a basic human right.  The WATER Act would make that principle a reality for every American.”

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 bill reintroduction comes a day after reports indicated that nearly 380,000 Michigan residents get their water from systems that would fail to meet lead-safety standards proposed by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder.

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. Cheri Bustos (IL-17), Yvette Clarke (NY-09), Keith Ellison (MN-05), Dwight Evans (PA-02), Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02), Raúl Grijalva (AZ-03), Jared Huffman (CA-02), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Hank Johnson (GA-04), Brenda Lawrence (MI-14), Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM-01), Betty McCollum (MN-04), James McGovern (MA-02), Gwen Moore (WI-04), Jerrold Nadler (NY-10), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Mark Pocan (WI-02), Jamie Raskin (MD-08), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Peter Welch (VT-At Large). It is endorsed by over 60 labor unions, national and grassroots organizations, including:  Food & Water Watch, Public Citizen, AFSCME, UAW, National Nurses United, 9to5, National Association of Working Women, Alliance for Democracy, Center for Biological Diversity, Corporate Accountability International, Hip Hop Caucus, Michigan Unitarian Universalist Social Justice Network, United Church of Christ, Detroit Metropolitan Association Social Justice Mission Team, Michigan United, Water You Fighting For, We the People of Detroit.