APWA Signs Letter in Support of Water Priorities

APWA joined with dozens of organizations, businesses, and other groups to support four principles to secure our nation’s water future in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. The principles lay out the responsibilities of government and industry at all levels regarding providing water services to the American people.
The four principles are:
  • Ensure water is reliable and affordable for all;
  • Strengthen water utilities of all sizes;
  • Close the water access gap;
  • Fuel economic recovery by investing in water systems.
As communities work to grapple with the public health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 crisis, public works professionals are working to provide essential drinking water and wastewater services, often at considerable personal risk. Additionally, drinking water and wastewater service providers are facing severe financial hardships due to the crisis.
Decreased revenue from households less able to pay their bills and the sudden drop-off in industrial and business water usage could lead to billions of dollars in lost revenue for water and wastewater systems nationwide. This, coupled with additional costs water systems will incur for ongoing emergency operations during the course of the pandemic, will represent a significant sum that will be passed on to local customers through higher water rates.
In the current crisis, access to safe drinking water is essential to protecting public health. Regular handwashing is an important part of the regimen to slowing the spread of COVID-19. Necessarily, it is critical that the American public has access to safe drinking water, regardless of payment delinquency. Water utilities around the country are suspending water shut offs and restoring connections for water and wastewater service to delinquent accounts. These actions reflect the critical role clean water plays in mitigating the spread of the coronavirus, but the costs of these policies will also ultimately be passed on to ratepayers.
Additionally, investment in our nation’s water infrastructure will serve as economic stimulus in a time of severe financial crisis for millions of Americans. In the fourth week of March, nearly 3.3 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits, a number that equates to the population of the city of Chicago. These citizens are expected to be joined by more seeking benefits as the crisis continues. Investing federal dollars in water infrastructure projects across the country would provide job creation for these parties. The US Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) estimates that for every dollar spent on water infrastructure, about $2.62 is generated in the private economy. For every job added in the water workforce, the BEA estimates 3.68 jobs are added to the national economy.
At the same time this stimulus would be providing jobs for Americans, it would also improve our nation’s water infrastructure. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates the existing need for investment in water infrastructure is nearly $744 billion over the next 20 years, and these figures don’t include the overall costs associated with the myriad of water treatment techniques required to meet continually changing federal drinking water standards.
You can read the full letter regarding the principles here, and can read APWA’s water policy priorities here.
If you have questions regarding any of these matters, please contact APWA’s Government Relations Manager Sean Garcia.