By: U.S. Senators John Barrasso and Tom Carper
October 23, 2018
USA Today

From Newcastle, Wyoming, to New Castle, Delaware, water infrastructure is vital to every community in America. Our drinking water systems, dams, reservoirs, levees, shipping lanes and ports support and promote economic growth, are vital for our safety and security, and keep this country moving.

They provide water for families, crops, cattle, chickens, and small businesses. The country’s water infrastructure keeps our communities safe from dangerous floods, and it stores extra water for times of drought.

But the reality is that many of these systems are aging and in serious need of attention. That’s why Democrats and Republicans in the House and the Senate came together to pass a bill that makes critical updates to America’s water infrastructure, creates jobs, and gives communities tools to improve drinking water systems. It's soon to become law with President Donald Trump's signature.

This law will protect urban and rural America

As the top Republican and the top Democrat on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, we worked across the aisle to write this comprehensive law. Senators on our committee represent rural communities in places like South Dakota, Vermont and Alaska. Others represent some of our nation’s largest cities, including New York, Chicago and Baltimore. America's Water Infrastructure Act is good for people in all of these places and more.

This bipartisan law authorizes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to construct, expedite, modify or study more than 100 water resource projects. These important projects will create jobs here at home and spur economic growth. They will keep our waterways open to make it easier for American products to reach markets around the globe, keeping us competitive for years to come.

The new law will also increase water storage in the West, replenish shorelines in the East,  and build new dams and levees across the country. Access to consistent water supply is key for America’s ranchers and farmers. They expect that water will be there when they need it. Crumbling irrigation systems will now begin to receive badly needed maintenance.

Too often, important infrastructure projects can’t get off the ground because they are tied up in backlogs and delays. America’s Water Infrastructure Act gives local leaders an increased say in which projects the Army Corps of Engineers should prioritize. Those on the ground often understand the needs of their communities best. Localities and states need to be considered full partners with Washington.

Above all, America’s Water Infrastructure Act is about keeping families and communities safe. It allows the Army Corps of Engineers to more effectively assist communities recovering from devastating storms and surging rivers. The critical infrastructure projects included in this law will help prevent floods by maintaining dams, levees, beaches and wetlands. Improving these flood control systems will limit the damage caused by major hurricanes.

Each spring, melting ice causes rivers to overflow their banks and destroy property. Now, we are creating a permanent program to address these dangerous ice jam floods. Each summer and fall, we face disastrous storms impacting coastal communities. This bill creates new authorities to address the storms before they hit.

Safer drinking water at home and at school

America’s Water Infrastructure Act is also the most significant drinking water law enacted in nearly two decades. It reauthorizes the program that lets states borrow money to build out and maintain drinking water systems. It also establishes new federal programs to help communities address water contamination.

The events that produced elevated lead levels in the water in Flint, Michigan, were both tragic and avoidable. All parents — no matter what ZIP code they live in — should have confidence that the water coming out of their tap is safe for their kids to drink. These same assurances should extend to schools as well. That’s why our legislation expands programs to remove lead from school drinking fountains. That’s something we can all agree on, and it is something worth celebrating.

We are proud that this bill is bipartisan, and that it is fiscally responsible. America’s Water Infrastructure Act will not increase our nation’s budget deficit.

Too often, politics can keep meaningful legislation from moving forward. This legislation demonstrated that it’s still possible to find common ground on important issues that affect us all. America’s Water Infrastructure Act is a win for American families, for our economy, and for our environment. It can serve as a model for other committees in Congress moving forward, and we hope it will.

Republican Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming and Democratic Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware are chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.