Washington, D.C. — In an Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee hearing on drinking water infrastructure, Subcommittee on the Environment and Climate Change Republican Leader David B. McKinley (R-WV) spoke about the need for America’s water lines to be fixed and replaced.
Excerpts and highlights from his prepared remarks:
LEAKS COMING FROM OUR WATER LINES
“I get a kick out of this as a civil engineer, only licensed civil engineer in Congress, I get a kick out of the fact that our committee and others refer to the report.
“Thank you for your opening remarks in mentioning visiting Wheeling and how they are putting water lines in our streets.
“Whenever I meet with water districts, their top priority is overcoming the costs associated with leaks and breaks in their lines.
“They’re not alone. Experts have found nationally over 250,000 water main breaks annually, that equates to 700 breaks a day.
“According to the American Water Works Association, as much as 30% of treated water lost due to leakage and breaks; and 6 billion gallons of water are lost per day, costing water utilities $7.6 billion in lost water.
“That is a phenomenal amount of water lost. That’s more than all of the potable water produced in Africa each year.
“Mr. Chairman, imagine the hardship that presents to public service commissions.
“With 51,000 community water systems in the U.S., it cannot be efficient to invest billions of dollars into our drinking water infrastructure, only to lose 30% of it.
“30% is not acceptable. Imagine if our oil and gas pipelines leaked 30% of the time? Or if the post office lost 30% of our mail.
“So to improve the efficiency of our operations, we need to eliminate the breaks and leaks in our water lines.”
THE COSTS OF REPAIRS
“According to the American Water Works Association, we’ll need $1.7 trillion through 2050 to repair these infrastructure systems. At the rate Congress is assisting, it could take over 100 years to catch up.
“Mr. Chairman, why is Congress nibbling around the margins? Passing bills that whistle past the graveyard.
“Leaks and breaks cause heartache for our public service commissions. They simply don’t have the financial resources.
“President Obama initially requested close to $4 billion for the state revolving funds, but then reduced the amount to less than $2 billion. When asked about this in 2014, Gina McCarthy stated that EPA’s ‘priorities had changed’ and that funding differences would be used for climate change initiatives like pamphlets, literatures, and educational processes around the country.”
THE MONEY IS ALREADY THERE
“So where can Congress identify funds needed? But maybe the money is already there?
“Congress has signed multiple COVID-19 relief bills into law, including $1.9 trillion in funding this March.
“Mr. Chairman, we know state and local governments have unappropriated funds from these bills sitting in their capitals and clean drinking water is a public health issue.
“So why don’t we allow states, if they choose to, to transfer federal COVID funds to their state revolving funds?
“This could expedite repairs without having to authorize additional funding.
“Otherwise, water mains will continue to break across the country and leaks will continue to occur.
“Mr. Chairman, this is not a partisan issue. We talked about this in West Virginia. America deserves better.”