Water Resources Bill Would Cost $10.6 Billion: CBO

By Amena H. Saiyid

June 20 — A Senate bill authorizing navigation, flood control, wetland restoration and water quality projects is estimated to cost $10.6 billion to implement over the 2017-2026 period, the Congressional Budget Office reported June 20.

The Water Resources Development Act (S. 2848) would authorize the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to carry out navigation, flood control and wetland-protection projects. The bill also would authorize the Environmental Protection Agency to administer grant and loan programs to help cities and towns reduce sewer overflows and help smaller localities comply with drinking water regulations. In addition, the bill would enable the EPA to help small cities or towns with grants to replace aging lead-lined service pipes, among others. The last water resources bill was passed in 2014.

The CBO said the bill would result in a net savings of $6 million over the 2017-2026 period. Moreover, the CBO said enacting S. 2848 would not increase net direct spending or on-budget deficits in any of the four consecutive 10-year periods beginning in 2027.

An estimated $6.5 billion of the $10.6 billion would go toward repair and replacement of both drinking water and wastewater infrastructure.

Specifically, the $6.5 billion implementation cost would include:

  •  $1.8 billion in grants to reduce combined sewer overflows;
  •  $1.5 billion to implement the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative;
  •  $1.43 billion in grants for small, disadvantaged communities to comply with drinking water regulations;
  •  $500 million in grants for public water systems to develop innovative technologies;
  •  $300 million in grants to public water systems to fund capital projects, including replacing lead service lines, and
  •  $100 million in grants to fund lead testing in schools and day care centers.


‘Apolitical' Measure?

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which passed S. 2848 on April 28, estimated implementation would cost $9.35 billion, including $4.85 billion for clean water and drinking water infrastructure.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the environment committee, welcomed the CBO score, and particularly the $6 million in savings for taxpayers. Inhofe said S. 2848 reflects the efforts to address “critical, apolitical needs” to expand and modernize ports and waterways, supported needed flood control projects, and provide for clean water and safe drinking water infrastructure.

Move Bill Before Recess

Inhofe in the June 20 statement expressed optimism about moving S. 2848 prior to the summer recess. “As I’ve discussed with Leader McConnell, I am confident that we can quickly move this bill through the Senate in the remaining weeks of this work period,” Inhofe said.

Inhofe's remarks came after a coalition of national groups representing local governments, flood and risk management, wastewater, stormwater and drinking water urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to take up S. 2848 before the Senate recesses in early July.

The groups, in the June 17 letterthat also was sent to Inhofe, said S. 2848 includes much-needed “common sense reforms” to the Clean Water Act and funding for aging water infrastructure.

Water Groups Urge Passage

The letter was spearheaded by the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, which represents publicly owned wastewater utilities.

Among the reforms to the Clean Water Act is a ban on the EPA from using median household income as a gauge for paying sewer bills. S. 2848 requires the EPA to update its 1987 affordability guidance based on the National Academies recommendations. Other important reforms include authorizing a technical assistance program of $75 million over a five year period for small wastewater utilities and requiring that the Clean Water state revolving fund set aside 2 percent of its capitalization grants for small public wastewater systems.

To contact the reporter on this story: Amena H. Saiyid in Washington at asaiyid@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com

For More Information

The Congressional Budget Office scoring of S. 2848 is available at http://src.bna.com/f3P.

The water group's letter to Senate Republican and Democrat leaders is available at http://src.bna.com/f3S.