Rep. McNerney Introduces Legislation to Help Address California Drought
HR 1710 would temporarily suspend a ban on the use of tax-exempt bonds in projects funded under the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA), if a state’s governor issues a drought declaration of emergency. This change would allow local governments and water agencies to more easily raise funds for large drinking water, wastewater and water reuse projects. In 2014, WIFIA began providing low-interest federal loans for up to 49% of large water projects. However, as written, the law prohibits tax-exempt bonds from funding the remaining 51%.
The Protect Drinking Water from Droughts Act, HR 1709, would amend the Safe Drinking Water Act and direct the EPA to monitor the quality of drinking water in regions affected by drought, and make recommendations about how to mitigate any negative effects. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), shrinking amounts of water during droughts can concentrate contaminants such as heavy metals, industrial chemicals and pesticides, and sediments and salts. The NRDC also writes that during droughts, drinking water supplies are susceptible to harmful algal blooms and other microorganisms.
“We all need to work together to help protect our families, farmers and small businesses from the effects of this unprecedented drought,” said Rep. McNerney. “These two bills are a part of the solution. One will enable local water agencies to raise the funds to begin construction on projects to capture and save more water; and the other will make sure the water we drink remains safe and healthy during drought conditions. I’ll continue to work with local officials and my colleagues here in the House to look for any further legislative solutions.”
H.R. 1709 is co-sponsored by Rep. Doris Matsui (CA-6), Rep. Mike Honda (CA-17), Rep. Lois Capps (CA-24), and Rep. Paul Tonko (NY-20). HR 1710 is co-sponsored by Reps. Matsui and Tonko (NY-20).