Padilla Secures Key Water Utility Provisions in Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act

The bill passed EPW Committee and now moves forward for vote on the Senate Floor

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) participated in a Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee mark-up meeting where he voted for the reauthorization of the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act, which passed the committee with bipartisan support. The bill includes key provisions Padilla pushed for including, securing funding for California water projects, ensuring safe drinking water for vulnerable communities, and tackling California’s water debt crisis.

WATCH: View Video of Padilla’s Remarks Download Video of Padilla’s Remarks

Right now, California households are facing water shutoffs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Padilla explained thecritical need to address this issue, “1 in 8 California households currently have unpaid water bills totaling an estimated $1 billion.” The provisions included in this bill work to mitigate this and other equity issues when it comes to safe drinking water.

Key Padilla Provisions:

  • Reauthorization of the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, known as WIFIA, which has provided $3.3 billion in financing for California water projects.
  • Grants to assist small and disadvantaged communities that do not have safe drinking water, which is critical as California enters a second year of drought.
  • And a new EPA pilot program to address water affordability, the Rural and Low-Income Drinking Water Assistance Pilot Program, which will provide direct financial assistance and debt relief to water systems serving predominantly low-income households.

The full transcript of Padilla’s remarks below:

PADILLA: Mr. Chair, I want to thank you and Ranking Member Capito and your staffs on the hard work that went into crafting this significant bill that we just acted upon. 

I want to take this opportunity colleagues to call attention to the 1 million Californians who cannot drink their tap water due to contamination. I believe this bill will make a meaningful difference in helping deliver clean, safe drinking water to millions of Californians. In particular, I’d like to highlight some priorities of mine that are included in this legislation:

Reauthorization of the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, known as WIFIA, which has provided $3.3 billion in financing for California water projects. Grants to assist small and disadvantaged communities that do not have safe drinking water, which is critical as California enters a second year of drought. And a new EPA pilot program for low-income water rate assistance, the Rural and Low-Income Drinking Water Assistance Pilot Program.

Now I particularly want to focus on this last one, given the water debt emergency facing my state and others across the country as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 1 in 8 California households currently have unpaid water bills totaling an estimated $1 billion. 

Mr. Chairman, I would like to ask consent to submit a letter into the record from a broad coalition of California organizations, communities, and water agencies emphasizing the critical need to address this and other equity issues surrounding affordable, safe drinking water.

I think the pilot program included in this bill is a good start, but we must do much more. Mr. Chairman, I hope to work with you and Ranking Member Capito on a bipartisan basis as this bill moves to the floor to include a permanent, long-term assistance program to help low-income Americans access safe drinking water, just like we have program to help low-income Americans with the energy bills.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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