Utilities testify before Senate on potential CWSRF changes

March 17, 2022
NACWA urged that any changes consider EPA’s Clean Watersheds Needs Survey — and urged that maintaining strong, sustainable revolving funds be at the forefront.

A Senate committee, looking to potential changes to the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) allocation formula, heard testimony from public clean water utility members of the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA).

Members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee heard testimony from the utilities during the Committee’s hearing, “Oversight of the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund Formula”.

The hearing looks at potential changes to the way that the CWSRF allocates its funding. The CWSRF is the primary federal investment program for local clean water investment, offering low-interest loans to public utilities for water quality infrastructure projects.

Among those called to testify were members of the NACWA Board of Directors — Tom Sigmund, Executive Director of NEW Water in Green Bay, Wis. and NACWA’s Vice President, and Kyle Dreyfuss-Wells, CEO of the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District in Cleveland, Ohio.

“I cannot overstate how much of a lifeline the CWSRF has been, and still is, for clean water utilities across this country,” Sigmund testified. “Through the State of Wisconsin’s Clean Water Fund Program, clean water utilities have benefited from over $5.3 billion worth of financial assistance since State Fiscal Year 1991.”

Today’s hearing focused on examining potential changes to the formula that determines how federal appropriations for the CWSRF are allocated among individual state funds. The CWSRF has been adapted to meet changing needs since it was created, but the allocation formula does not have a clear history and has been the subject of Congressional oversight in recent years.

NACWA’s witnesses emphasized that as new clean water challenges emerge and infrastructure ages, growing the pot of federal resources available to help communities invest is key. The witnesses applauded the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for taking an important step to address the water infrastructure investment gap. As funding has grown, the Committee is rightly keeping an eye on the allocation formula, which dates back decades.

NACWA urged that any updates to the formula take into account an updated EPA Clean Watersheds Needs Survey — a data collection effort that recently got underway at the agency — and urged that maintaining strong and sustainable revolving funds in each state be at the forefront.

Speaking to the goal of achieving equity in water quality, Kyle Dreyfuss-Wells testified, “We cannot forget older communities, like Cleveland, with aging infrastructure, increased regulatory requirements, poverty, and declining populations... Increased SRF funding can meet the needs of all communities across the country – old and new, large and small.”

Today’s hearing comes a day after the Fiscal Year 2022 omnibus package was signed into law. The bill provides $1.64 billion for the CWSRF for FY22. Combined with the $1.9 billion provided for the traditional CWSRF through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, this investment will enable hundreds of communities to move forward with more projects and help mitigate impacts to rates that major capital investment projects create.

Watch the live hearings here: