In April 2021, the US Senate passed the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act to create a $35 billion fund for states and tribes to improve their water systems.
Forty percent will go to the underserved, rural, and tribal communities, a long-overdue investment, according to environmentalists, policy experts, and urban planners.
According to the Grist article, America’s deferred investments and “reactive” maintenance on its water infrastructure have earned a C from the American Society of Civil Engineers 2021 report card.
The article mentions that funding will repair the country’s infrastructure, improve its water quality, remove lead pipes from schools, and build resilience into infrastructure to withstand extreme weather events and climate change.
Years of underinvestment in water infrastructure of Native Americans, Blacks, and Latino households and communities, which has given them poor access to safe drinking water, plumbing, and wastewater treatment facilities, stems from a “history of racists policies” in the planning and construction of water infrastructure.
According to the 2019 report of the U.S. Water Alliance, race is a strong factor in whether a household has access to water and sanitation services.
Federal spending on drinking water infrastructure has also significantly dropped from the 1970s. The American Society of Civil Engineers says that if underinvestment persists, it will create a massive investment gap of $434 billion nationwide by 2029.
The 2016 Indian Health Services estimated that their infrastructure would need S2.7 billion to upgrade and provide them with access to clean water and sanitation services.
According to the article, because the distribution of the water networks is underground and therefore invisible, investments in water infrastructure can be a “hard sell politically”.
If the House approves and the Act is signed into law, infrastructure projects will start rolling out, especially in underserviced and marginalized communities that have been deprived of functioning and reliable water infrastructure in the past.