Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today released its proposed 2020 Financial Capability Assessment for the Clean Water Act, which will help communities plan for water infrastructure improvements. Due to concerns about unfunded mandates on local governments, Congress directed the EPA to revise its 1997 Financial Capability Assessment Guidance, which is used to evaluate the financial capability of a community when developing a schedule to pay for water infrastructure improvements. Today’s proposal includes new metrics to establish a community’s implementation schedule, including indicators that more accurately reflect how much low-income communities can afford to pay for water infrastructure upgrades.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National League of Cities and the National Association of Counties released the following statement:
“Local governments applaud the EPA for issuing the 2020 Financial Capability Assessment for the Clean Water Act, which will help communities improve water infrastructure, protect public health, and avoid placing an undue economic burden on our most vulnerable citizens. As local elected officials continue to deal with the coronavirus pandemic and economic fallout, it is time for the federal government to recognize a new model for determining affordability for our residents and our communities.
“Local governments fund nearly all of the nation’s investments in wastewater, drinking water and stormwater infrastructure, including $125.5 billion in 2017 alone. These funds are generated primarily through customer rates and user fees, which often result in an undue and disproportionate financial burden on low, moderate, and fixed-income households, making water bills unaffordable for many.
“Despite these substantial investments, many local governments continue to struggle to maintain and improve water-related infrastructure without further impacting our most vulnerable citizens. This situation has been compounded by the economic hardships brought on by COVID-19, where local governments face at least a $500 billion fiscal impact over the next two years while our residents struggle to pay their bills.
“Our organizations and members worked with EPA for over a decade to develop additional tools for local governments to assist with our efforts including: the 2011 Protecting Water Quality with Green Infrastructure Memorandum; the 2012 Integrated Municipal Stormwater and Wastewater Planning Approach Framework, which was codified into the Clean Water Act in 2018; and the 2014 Financial Capability Assessment Framework.
“Local governments strongly support a revised affordability guidance that includes new metrics to inform a community’s implementation schedule, including indicators that more accurately reflect how much low-income communities can afford to pay for water infrastructure upgrades.”