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Columnists

Congress Should Act on Water Investments

June 10, 2021
By Mariyana Spyropoulos

Congress is on the verge of passing historic – and necessary – legislation that would provide significant funding for investment in our nation’s water infrastructure. From coast to coast and towns to big cities, every zip code in the U.S. will benefit from the passage of the American Jobs Plan and the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act of 2021.

The American Jobs Plan is President Biden’s effort to get the U.S. past the economic impacts of the COVID pandemic and includes major investments in our country’s infrastructure. One of the most significant commitments is to ensure clean, safe drinking water in every community in the country.

At the same time, Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) has introduced the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act of 2021 (DWWIA 2021), which doubles down on our country’s commitment to provide federal funding to local municipalities so that they can make crucial upgrades and improvements to the delivery of clean drinking water and the removal of wastewater.

Because of my role at the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago – a unit of local government tasked with protecting our water environment – I have an in-depth understanding of what can happen when our water infrastructure is not maintained.

Many of the Chicago region’s local sewers were built more than 100 years ago and are not equipped to handle the flow of wastewater and stormwater during intense rain events. As a result, water floods our streets and fills our basements. At the same time, Chicago has the most lead pipes of any city in the country, threatening the city’s drinking water and the health of those who drink it.

But these problems aren’t unique to Chicago, which is why the American Jobs Act and DWWIA 2021 are focused on making investments across the country. Each year we fail to make these investments, the infrastructure we rely on becomes more difficult and more expensive to improve. The longer we wait, the more dire the situation becomes.

Unfortunately, like many issues, the situation is already far too dire for low-income Americans and households of color, as well as small, rural, and tribal communities. The DWWIA will work to address these issues, investing billions in water infrastructure projects in these communities that need them most. The legislation also creates a pilot program that would provide grants to help low-income households keep accessing drinking water.

Congress should act quickly to pass both the American Jobs Act and DWWIA 2021 so that we can rebuild and improve upon our country’s water infrastructure and ensure clean, safe drinking water to all communities across the country.

Mariyana Spyropoulos is a member of the MWRD Board of Commissioners

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