Invest in America’s Water and Wastewater Systems

Local governments have long been significant environmental and public health stewards by providing clean, safe, healthy drinking water and wastewater. To most Americans, this is a fundamental responsibility of government. In fact, American cities provide some of the safest and healthiest public drinking water in the world. To achieve this, local governments today currently spend $125 billion annually, which is raised through constituent user fees and taxes. In comparison, the federal government contributes less than $2 billion annually, largely in the form of loans, which must be paid back.

Unfortunately, due to numerous unfunded rules and regulations, this money is often diverted to fund other priorities separate from local government’s core purpose of protecting the public health of its citizens by keeping waterways drinkable, swimmable, fishable, and livable for aquatic life per the Clean Water Act. As one example of mounting water infrastructure needs, the water crisis in Flint, Michigan called attention to the real threat of lead contamination in some of our aging drinking water systems. It is currently estimated that replacing existing lead service lines will cost between $27 billion and $48 billion nationally – and the health and safety of our population depends on it.

To mitigate this, mayors call on the President and Congress to:

  • Raise existing federal funding commitments substantially, particularly in the form of grant funding, to support the modernization and expansion of our nation’s drinking water, wastewater treatment, stormwater and flood protection systems. This includes addressing public health threats from lead contamination in older, legacy water systems as well as helping mitigate the impact of unfunded federal mandates on communities where user fee increases to comply with these mandates are making water rates unaffordable for more and more local residents. The federal government should assist localities in meeting Clean Water Act obligation including (but not limited to) TMDLs for stormwater as it did in the past by funding upgrades of treatment plants to secondary treatment
  • Implement the Integrated Planning Permit law to ensure cities and their customers are not overly financially burdened and to allow cities maximum flexibility to address specific challenges in a smart, prioritized manner.
  • Change the current clean water act law to allow cities to have 10-year, rather than five-year, treatment works permit terms. We need a more long-term approach.
  • Continue to advocate for better “Affordability” assessments involving compliance with unfunded federal mandates, including the elimination of costly penalties.
  • Direct new resources funding to support local government efforts to study, evaluate and undertake capital investments to combat cybersecurity threats and improve water system resiliency from natural disasters.
  • Assist in providing funding or federal credits for premise plumbing upgrades on private property to prevent and reduce contamination from pipes.
  • Fund the Corps of Engineers’ authority to allow for water and wastewater infrastructure investment which would allow for additional grant funding for the nation’s water and wastewater infrastructure.
  • Increase funding for newly established programs including the water workforce development grant, CSO and stormwater infrastructure needs, increasing system resiliency, and accelerating innovative technologies in the water sector.


Focused on: Infrastructure, Innovation, & Inclusion