ARCHIVE SITE - Last updated Jan. 19, 2017. Please visit for the latest NACWA information.

Member Pipeline

Advocacy Alert 16-15


» Advocacy Alerts Archive 

To: Members & Affiliates
From: National Office
Date: October 12, 2016
Subject: Water Resources Development Act Analysis
Reference: AA 16-15


On September 15th the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly passed S. 2848, The Water Resources Development Act of 2016 (WRDA), with a 95 to 3 vote.  WRDA is traditionally a two-year reauthorization package for flood control, navigation and environmental restoration projects undertaken by the Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE).  However, in light of recent water crises, particularly the drinking water crisis in Flint, Mich., this year’s Senate WRDA package includes provisions that bolster investment in water and wastewater infrastructure (including an emergency aid package for the City of Flint), policy reforms to the Clean Water Act (CWA) that address ratepayer affordability challenges, and authorizations for several watershed-based restoration initiatives.  
On September 28th, following the Senate vote, the House of Representatives passed its WRDA package also with a strong bipartisan vote of 399-25.  The House WRDA bill, H.R. 5303, is narrower than the Senate package and focuses primarily on ACOE project authorizations, though amendments were added during the House floor debate to provide aid to the City of Flint, to authorize the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, and encourage the use of natural features in ACOE projects, among other items. 
Final enactment of WRDA during the Lame Duck session in December is promising given that both chambers of Congress approved their respective WRDA bills with broad bipartisan support.  However, given the stark differences between the Senate and House bills, significant negotiations will need to occur in order to produce a final bill that reconciles both packages.  
This Advocacy Alert provides further analysis of key WRDA provisions included in the House and Senate packages.  NACWA members are encouraged to contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , NACWA’s Senior Legislative Director, or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , NACWA’s Legislative Manager, with any questions.  


Congress historically reauthorizes WRDA every two years, but has struggled to maintain this schedule over the last decade as concerns regarding earmarks emerged.  In 2014, Congress enacted a reauthorization package to reform the ACOE project selection process in order to address these concerns.  If this year’s WRDA package is enacted, it will help reestablish a biennial schedule for WRDA reauthorization, a priority for leaders of the House and Senate authorizing committees—the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

During the 2014 WRDA authorization effort, Congress included several drinking water and wastewater infrastructure-related funding provisions including program revisions to the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) Program and establishing a new water infrastructure loan program referred to as the Water Infrastructure Financing and Innovation Act (WIFIA).  The 2016 Senate bill builds on this legislative effort, indicating that Congress may be looking to WRDA as a legislative vehicle to advance policy priorities related to municipal water and clean water needs.    

Safe Drinking Water and Clean Water Infrastructure (S. 2848 – Title VII)

Title VII of the Senate package includes provisions related to the SDWA and the CWA, as well as authorizations for several watershed-based restoration initiatives throughout the country.  Several provisions authorize and/or reauthorize funding-related programs administered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) including targeted investments in lead service line replacement, wet weather control, and technology development.  None of these provisions are included in the House package with the exception of a narrow set of provisions addressing the drinking water crisis in Flint. 

Sense of Senate and Authorizations for the SRF programs:  While the Senate package does not include an overall authorization amount for the Clean Water (CW) or Drinking Water (DW) SRF programs, Title VII begins with a Senate resolution calling on Congress to maintain robust funding for these programs.  The statement refers to economic data in support of strong funding for water infrastructure that were contained in an analysis by the Water Environment Federation and the WateReuse Association which found that in addition to public health and environmental impacts, every dollar of a Federal SRF capitalization grant returns a minimum of $0.21 to the U.S. Treasury in the form of Federal taxes, and up to $0.93 in Federal taxes when additional State spending is factored in as a result of leveraging the Federal SRF investment dollar.   

Congress has, for the past several years, provided approximately $2.5 billion combined to the two SRF programs.  A decision was likely made by Senate leaders that if the package could not contain a substantially higher authorization amount, including a strong statement about the importance of funding the SRF programs would at least send a signal to appropriators to maintain existing levels.  Elsewhere in Title VII, language states that no further cuts to the SRF programs should be made.  

Clean Water Act Amendments (Title VII, Subtitle B, S. 2848)

Subtitle B of S. 2848 adopts several key Clean Water Act (CWA)-related policy and funding priorities for which NACWA has advocated. A number of the provisions represent the first significant reforms to the CWA in decades and an important step toward providing municipal dischargers with greater compliance flexibility to address ratepayer affordability challenges. 

Highlights of this subtitle include: 

  • Sec. 7201: Sewer overflow control grants. Reauthorization of the Wet Weather Grant Program, authorizing grants of up to $1.8 billion over five years to States for the purpose of providing grants to a municipality or municipal entity for planning, designing, and constructing controls for CSOs, SSOs, stormwater, and subsurface drainage water. 

  • Sec. 7202: Technical assistance for small and medium treatment works. Authorizes grants or cooperative agreements with qualified nonprofit treatment works technical assistance providers to aid POTWs in complying with and securing financing under the CWA. Authorizes $75 million over five years to assist small treatment works (less than 10,000 individuals) and $50 million over five years to assist medium treatment works (serving 10,001–100,000 individuals). 

  • Sec. 7203: Integrated Plans. Authorizes the EPA and states to write permits based on measures contained in a permittee’s Integrated Plan (IP) and developed in accordance with EPA’s 2012 Integrated Planning Framework.   The provision essentially codifies the 2012 IP Framework into the CWA and ensures that the initiative remains part of EPA’s CWA regulatory compliance program.   The provision specifically requires the EPA Administrator to inform municipal dischargers (both wastewater and stormwater) of the availability of Integrated Planning to aid in meeting the broad scope of CWA compliance obligations, including obligations related to wet weather and water quality-based effluent limitations. 
  • Sec. 7203 would also allow a discharger with an IP to incorporate compliance schedules for meeting water quality-based effluent limitations beyond a single five-year permit cycle.  In addition, the provision enables permittees with an existing enforcement order that undertake development of an IP to request a modification of that order based on the development of the IP.  While EPA already allows compliance schedules in certain circumstances, language in the Senate WRDA package would codify this authority for the first time and remove certain restrictions that EPA has historically imposed on use of compliance schedules.  NACWA has been a strong proponent of IP as a mechanism to address affordability challenges and has worked to ensure communities receive resources to help develop Integrated Plans.  

  • In addition, Sec. 7203 establishes an Office of Municipal Ombudsman within the Office of EPA Administrator to work with municipalities as they implement compliance obligations under the CWA and SDWA, with priority given to municipalities demonstrating affordability concerns.  The Ombudsman would be charged with providing technical assistance to municipalities seeking compliance help and providing information to the Administrator to ensure that agency policies are implemented by all EPA offices, including Regional offices.  If enacted, the Office of Municipal Ombudsman could be an important voice within EPA on behalf municipal affordability concerns. This section also requires EPA to provide within two years a report to Congress regarding each integrated plan developed and implemented since EPA published its “Integrated Municipal Stormwater and Wastewater Planning Approach Framework” in June 2012.  

  • Sec. 7204: Green Infrastructure Promotion. Directs EPA to ensure that green infrastructure approaches to CWA compliance obligations are fully promoted throughout the agency and integrated within compliance programs.

  • Sec. 7205: Financial capability guidance. Requires EPA to revise the 1997 Combined Sewer Overflows—Guidance for Financial Capability Assessment and Schedule Development and prohibits the agency from using a Median Household Income (MHI) indicator as the sole indicator of affordability for residential households (Sec. 7205).  In revising the Guidance, EPA must consider the results of a study underway by the National Academy of Public Administration to establish a definition and framework for community affordability, as well as local economic conditions, impact on low-income customers and distressed populations, other essential community investments, and other factors.  For communities already implementing CSO and SSO consent decrees, revised affordability guidance may provide an opportunity to reevaluate their financial capability.   


ACOE Sections (Titles I – VI)  

The ACOE-specific provisions of WRDA are contained in titles I—VI of the Senate bill and titles I—IV of the House bill.   Contained within these titles in both packages are project authorizations and project modifications for environmental restoration, navigation, and flood control efforts, including some in which NACWA members have a direct interest.  

Integrated Water Resources Management Planning:  Both House and Senate packages contain a provision advocated by NACWA designed to encourage greater coordination and integration between ACOE flood control projects and local water resources management programs that target, for example, improved stormwater management or aquifer recharge programs, though the House and Senate provisions take different approaches to accomplishing this goal.   The House language (Sec. 142) would require that when conducting a feasibility study, the ACOE determine whether a local or regional water management plan exists and, if so, avoid adversely affecting the purposes of the plan and, where feasible, incorporate those purposes into the study. The Senate language (Sec. 1042), on the other hand, authorizes the ACOE to invite a unit of local government to participate in a feasibility study to determine whether opportunities exist for enabling the ACOE-sponsored project to support local water management goals.  While these two provisions will need to be reconciled, the fact that both packages contain this policy reform indicates a desire to encourage integration between efforts designed to control floods and efforts designed to improve water quality and/or address water supply challenges.  

Additional provisions within these titles in the House and/or Senate bills that are potentially of interest to NACWA members include: 

  • Sec. 4013 (S. 2848) – Coastal resiliency: Requires that feasibility studies for projects in coastal zones to enhance ocean and coastal ecosystem resiliency prioritize projects in communities threatened by rising sea level.  No similar provision is contained in the House package. 

  • Sec. 4017 (S. 2848) / Sec. 181, Sec. 140 (HR5303):  Consideration of the use of natural and nature-based features:  Both packages require the ACOE to incorporate natural and nature-based features when undertaking certain projects.  Senate language limits the requirement to projects improving coastal resiliency; the House language requires consideration of a broader set of projects.  Both packages require the ACOE to issue a report assessing to what extent natural-based features are incorporated in ACOE projects and the cost benefits of doing so.  

  • Sec. 4018 (S. 2848): Waterfront community revitalization and resiliency:  Requires the Secretary of Commerce to designate resilient waterfront communities based on the extent to which a community meets specific planning criteria, and authorizes funding to support development and implementation of a resilient community plan.  To the extent that communities have invested in resiliency measures and are interested in receiving federal and other grants to continue this work, the program would provide a “Good Housekeeping” stamp of approval that could potentially help leverage these funds.  No similar program authorization is contained in House package.
  • Sec. 1012 (S. 2848): Leveraging Federal infrastructure for increased water supply. Authorizes the ACOE to review proposals to increase water supplies by increasing storage capacity, modifying project management, or accessing water that has been released, with full public consultation. Proposals may not reallocate water, reduce water available for any authorized purpose, adversely impact water rights, or increase costs paid by others. Certain reservoirs and river systems are excluded from the provision.   

Innovative Financing & Promotion of Innovative Technologies (Title VII, Subtitle C, S. 2848)

This subtitle contains authorizations for several funding-related programs, the most significant of which is an authorization to establish a trust fund for investments in water and wastewater infrastructure, which has been a NACWA advocacy priority for many years. The proposed trust fund would be established at the U.S. Department of Treasury and raise revenue on a voluntary basis through licensing fees paid by manufacturers of consumer products that place a label on products indicating that their purchase contributes to clean and safe water.   The proposal is based on H.R. 4468, Water Infrastructure Trust Fund Act, bipartisan legislation introduced by Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Congressman John Duncan (R-TN) and Congressman Richard Hanna (R-NY) earlier this year.  The funds raised by the Treasury would be dedicated to the CW and DW SRF (Sec. 7303).  

Sec. 7303 also contains NACWA proposed language authorizing EPA to conduct a study on the potential of establishing a subsidy program for low-income ratepayers struggling to afford water and wastewater bills and help incentivize full-cost pricing of water and clean water services.

Additional subtitle B highlights include:  

  • Sec. 7302: Water infrastructure finance and innovation. Removes the “pilot” designation of the WIFIA program and includes provisions enabling small systems to take advantage of the program; specifies that projects to address the drought are among those projects eligible for assistance. Limited WIFIA modifications are also included in the House package.
  • Sec. 7304: Innovative water technology grant program. Authorization for $50 million per fiscal year to accelerate the development and use of innovative technologies by water systems to address pressing water challenges, reduce ratepayer costs, and improve water quality or system security. Technologies for wastewater treatment, water recycling/reuse, urban stormwater runoff, sewer or stormwater overflows, edge-of-field runoff, and more are specifically noted as eligible.
  • Sec. 7306: Reauthorization of Water Desalination Act of 1996. Reauthorization of the Water Desalination Act of 1996 and provision of $48 million for five years.  Prioritizes funding for research to improve existing technologies and advance next-generation desalination to reduce costs, energy, and environmental impacts; requires the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to develop a coordinated desalination strategic plan.

  • Sec. 7307: National Drought Resilience Guidelines. Directs EPA, in conjunction with other key Federal agencies, to develop non-regulatory national drought resilience guidelines related to drought preparedness and investments for water utilities and other entities.

  • Sec. 7308: Innovation in State Water Pollution Control Revolving Loan Funds.  Contains provisions geared toward incentivizing adoption of innovated clean water technologies through the CWSRF; requires EPA to submit a report to Congress every five years on the barriers to adopting innovative technologies and the cost-savings potential to cities from greater use of emerging technologies. 

Drinking Water (Title VII, Subtitle A, S. 2848)

The Senate’s drinking water subtitle includes numerous provisions aimed at addressing drinking water-related concerns and preventing another lead-related crisis such as occurred in Flint.  In total, the provisions authorize $1.8 billion in federal spending over five years for various drinking water-related programs. The majority ($1.4 billion) is in the form of EPA grants to aid small/disadvantaged communities, with the remainder targeted to public service line replacement and assistance to low-income homeowners to replace privately owned service lines, pipes, fittings, or fixtures that contain lead.  Grant funds are also authorized to support voluntary drinking water testing programs in schools and child care facilities (Sec. 7101-7111).  

Additional specific highlights include:

  • Sec. 7104: Other authorized activities. Amends the list of other authorized activities States may undertake through the DWSRF to include implementation of plans to protect source water identified in a source water assessment. 

  • Sec. 7108: Regional liaisons for minority, tribal, and low-income communities. Requires that EPA appoint a liaison to minority, tribal and low-income communities at each EPA regional office.

  • Sec. 7109-7110: Notice to persons served and electronic reporting of drinking water data. Requires electronic reporting of lead tests as a condition of receiving funds under the SDWA, amends the notification process for when lead action levels are exceeded, and explicitly authorizes EPA to notify the public of drinking water test results when necessary.

  • Sec. 7112: WaterSense program. Codifies EPA’s WaterSense program, a voluntary labeling program to identify and promote water-efficient products, buildings, landscapes, facilities, processes, and services. NACWA is working with other stakeholder groups to urge that any final WRDA language related to WaterSense indicate that a label should not be developed for products that could impair water quality in recycled water or receiving waters, such as self-regenerating water softeners. 

Drinking Water Disaster Relief and Infrastructure Investments (Title VII, Subtitle D, S. 2848)

Subtitle D of the Senate package provides the much-anticipated federal assistance for the City of Flint to address its drinking crisis as proposed by EPW Committee leaders Senators Inhofe (R-OK) and Boxer (D-CA) and the Michigan Senators Stabenow (D-MI) and Peters (D-MI) in February. The bill only identifies Flint by name in a section requiring a GAO report regarding the Flint crisis – but other provisions including loans, loan forgiveness, and grants would provide financial assistance where a Presidential emergency declaration has been made due to lead or other contaminants in drinking water, with Flint as the obvious intended beneficiary.  Key authorizations totaling $220 million aimed at Flint include: 

  • Sec. 7401: Drinking Water Infrastructure. $100 million through the DWSRF for FY16 and FY17, to repair and replace lead service lines.  Amounts unobligated after 18 months shall be available for EPA to provide to other states.  Also in Sec. 7401, $70 million in WIFIA loans to provide credit subsidies, with a goal of providing secured loans totaling at least $700 million.  

  • Sec. 7402: Loan Forgiveness. Allows additional subsidization of DWSRF loans beyond the current 20% cap, if a Federal or State emergency declaration has been issued due to a threat to public health from heightened exposure to lead in a municipal drinking water supply. 

  • Sec. 7403-7404: Registry for lead exposure and advisory committee; Additional funding for certain childhood health programs. $50 million to address lead prevention and exposure through the Departments of Health and Human Services and Housing and Urban Development. 

Watershed Restoration (Title VII, Subtitle F, S. 2848)

Subtitle F authorizes a total of $2.27 billion for restoration efforts in several large watersheds and basins. Several NACWA members receive funding through these initiatives for non-point related work they undertake within these watershed regions. Specifically, the legislation authorizes: 

  • $1.5 billion over 5 years for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative;
  • $415 million over 10 years for the Lake Tahoe Restoration Initiative;

  • $325 million over 5 years for the Long Island Sound Restoration Initiative;

  • $30 million over 6 years for the Delaware River Basin Conservation Initiative; and, 

  • Establishes the Columbia River Basin Restoration initiative under the National Estuary Program.  

Innovative Water Infrastructure Workforce Development Program (Title VII, Subtitle G, S. 2848)

Subtitle G authorizes EPA to establish a new competitive grant program to assist in developing innovative activities for workforce development in the water utility sector. A total of $5 million is authorized over five years for education and workforce development, with grants going directly to water and wastewater utilities. 

Next Steps

House and Senate negotiators now have the task of reconciling their respective packages and it is unclear at this point whether Senate negotiators will be successful in maintaining the many non-ACOE provisions contained in their bill.  

As negotiations get underway between the House and Senate to determine what remains in a final package, NACWA urges its members to reach out to their House Congressional Delegations to educate them on the value of the Senate Title VII measures and ask that they support inclusion of them in final WRDA legislation.   

NACWA has developed talking points and model letters to help you with this advocacy outreach. 

Again, please do not hesitate to contact Patricia Sinicropi, NACWA Senior Legislative Director at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or Kristina Surfus, NACWA Legislative Manager at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it with any questions or concerns.



Join NACWA Today

Membership gives you access to the tools to keep you up to date on legislative, regulatory, legal and management initiatives.

» Learn More

Targeted Action Fund

Upcoming Events

Winter Conference
Next Generation Compliance …Where Affordability & Innovation Intersect
February 4 – 7, 2017
Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel
Tampa, FL