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Senate passes bipartisan $35B water infrastructure bill

A bipartisan bill to boost funding for states' water infrastructure passed the Senate 89-2 Thursday, sending it to the House of Representatives.

The measure, the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act of 2021, would put $35 billion toward state water infrastructure programs. It authorizes gradual increases in funding for state water infrastructure systems from fiscal 2022 through 2026, beginning with $2.4 billion and ending with $3.25 billion.

The bill also establishes an operational sustainability program for smaller water systems such as those under the jurisdiction of Native American tribes, and authorizes $50 million annually for fiscal years 2022-2026.

It also creates a separate grant program for large and midsize drinking water systems, with 50 percent of the funding required to go to systems that serve between 10,000 and 100,000 people. The other half must be used for systems serving populations of at least 100,000.

The bill would nearly double funding for grants aimed at removing lead from drinking water, from $60 million to $100 million per year. The Biden administration, as part of its infrastructure plan, has pledged to replace the entirety of the nation’s lead pipes. Lead in drinking water has been linked to brain and neurological damage in children, including in the case of Flint, Mich., which saw its water supply contaminated by lead.