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Two months ago, the President signed America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 into law. The most momentous water law passed in nearly two decades, it received bipartisan Congressional support and seeks to both address wide-ranging issues related to the infrastructure of American water systems and create jobs across the country in the process.

As Lincoln and Omaha’s clean water experts, we’re looking into some specific sections of interest—particularly those regarding water safety and the introduction of new hydropower initiatives. This week’s blog will cover everything from the basics of the Act to the criticisms it faces from those who oppose it.

Basics of the Act

The Water Infrastructure Act is a broad piece of legislation which covers a laundry list of things from safe drinking water to hydropower to dam, reservoir and levee safety. All of these are both vital to American economic systems and required to keep communities safe from the consequences of poor or underregulated infrastructure (floods, contaminated drinking water, etc.). Unfortunately, much of the infrastructure across America needs serious updates. Whether due to standard weathering, natural disaster or mismanagement, many of America’s water systems are crumbling and in need of repair.

This law authorized the Army Corps of Engineers to construct or update more than 100 water-resource projects across the country. It also prioritizes increasing water storage in Western states that are suffering the effects of a prolonged drought; building and updating dams and irrigation systems; and finding newer, more effective ways to help citizens affected by floods, hurricanes and other natural disasters.

Potentially the most important aspect of this legislation is how it empowers local leaders to create change in their communities. Because community leaders have a more in-depth understanding of how their particular city, county or region could be improved, the law provides them the groundwork to work with the Army Corps of Engineers in making decisions about which projects to prioritize.

Clean, Safe Water and Empowering Hydropower

The infrastructure which provides drinking water to American citizens is rarely in the news for a good reason. Crises like those in Flint, Michigan and Milwaukee, Wisconsin have reignited conversations about contaminants found in American water systems. By loosening the requirements on which drinking water providers can receive aid from programs like WIFIA and the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, more communities can benefit from them.

Hydropower is also an important component of the law. The law has the capacity to “facilitate a more efficient licensing process for proposed projects at existing non-powered dams and for closed-loop pumped storage; shorten the approval timeline for projects utilizing existing conduits; provide regulatory incentives for investments at existing hydropower facilities; and modernize preliminary permit terms and deadlines for starting construction of newly licensed projects” according to the National Hydropower Association.

Critiques of the Law

The main criticisms surrounding the Infrastructure Act is that it does not do enough. Critics say that the Army Corps already has an extreme project backlog and that the 2018 law does little or nothing to decrease it. Additionally, questionable projects and excess federal spending have been cited as unfortunate consequences of the law. The only Congressional representative who voted against the law, Senator Mike Lee of Utah, dissented because he believes that state monies, not federal funds, should be the main source of funding for many of the projects outlined.

To stay up to date on all of America’s water news, follow the Quality Water Services blog—we release new articles every Wednesday. If the state of America’s water infrastructure has you concerned about the state of the water in your home, call our offices today to talk about water testing or installing a soft water system!