Nov 02, 2018

Senators Introduce Low-Income Water Customer Assistance Programs Act

The act would provide drinking water assistance to low-income customers and small systems

Senators introduce drinking water act for low-income and small system assistance
Senators introduce drinking water act for low-income and small system assistance

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and co-sponsor Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) introduced the Low-Income Water Customer Assistance Programs Act of 2018 to the U.S. Committee on Environment and Public Works and U.S. Senate. The act proposes amending the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to establish pilot programs to assist low-income households in maintaining access to sanitation services and drinking water.

According to the proposal, the proposed pilot program would award grants to no fewer than 32 eligible entities to develop and implement programs to assist low-income households in maintaining access to affordable clean drinking water. The program would provide aid to no more than two eligible entities in each state and would include small communities with populations fewer than 10,000 residents at least 20% below the federal poverty level.

Aid under the pilot program could come in the form of direct financial assistance, a lifeline rate, bill discounting, special hardship provisions, a percentage-of-income payment plan or water efficiency assistance. Water efficiency assistance would include direct installation of water efficient fixtures and leak repair through a contracted third-party, according to the proposal. Beyond drinking water, the proposal also includes a low-income wastewater assistance pilot program.

Following the pilot program, a study would be completed no later than two years after the date of enactment of the act, with the findings reported to Congress. The study would seek to determine the prevalence throughout the U.S. of low-income households that do not have access to affordable on-site wastewater service, municipal storm water services or affordable public drinking water services.

The act has received support from the National Assn. of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA), which views the act as a critical step forward to address affordability challenges regarding drinking water across the county.

“This bipartisan legislation demonstrates that water affordability, and the federal government’s role in helping address it, is not a Democrat vs. Republican issue or an urban vs. rural community issue,” said Adam Krantz, NACWA’s CEO. “Instead, it demonstrates that water affordability challenges impact all Americans in all parts of the county.”

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