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Happy World Water Day from U.S. EPA

Assistant Administrator for the EPA Office of Water Radhika Fox addresses the water industry on World Water Day.

Happy World Water Day 2022! Over the past year, we’ve achieved incredible wins for water. We secured the single largest investment in water, with $50 billion through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Vice President Harris and EPA Administrator Michael Regan announced the Lead Pipe and Paint Action Plan to rapidly remove lead from homes. Even President Biden elevated water as a priority by setting policy goals, visiting with local water leaders, and highlighting the importance of safe water for all in the State of the Union.

This focus on water recognizes that water providers are anchor institutions that allow Americans to prosper just as much as hospitals or universities. I want to highlight this work, to elevate it, and to thank you for your service day-in and day-out.

Most recently, EPA took the next critical step in our work to implement funding through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The agency released a memo for state and local partners that details priorities for investing $43 billion in supplemental funding through the State Revolving Funds. This memo clarifies how funding through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is special. For example, the law reduces state match requirements, requires states to invest funding as grants or fully forgivable loans in underserved communities, and ensures that lead service lines are removed in their entirety. 

I know firsthand how an investment like this can accelerate water’s ability to uplift residents and communities. I learned this at the local level while working at the San Francisco Public Utility and I discovered it remained true at the national level through my work at the U.S. Water Alliance. Now I am at the EPA, and I know there is much we must do to empower and support you, our change leaders, to close the water equity gap and deliver a more resilient future for all.

Last month, I cheered Newark Water and Sewer for the great work that has been done to remove every known lead service line in the city. While the experience in Newark, New Jersey started in crisis, it shows what we can achieve when local, state, and federal entities come together to deliver what is needed. Earlier this month, I was in Lowndes County Alabama — seeing, smelling, and hearing about wastewater inequities that have plagued this community and others across the country for too long. We still have so much to do.

Thankfully, President Biden and congressional leaders delivered big for water through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The water sector is finally being recognized and it is the opportunity we have been clamoring for decades.

Funding through the BIL is special because it provides us a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fix water challenges, like those I saw firsthand in Lowndes County.

We have an obligation to do better than what has been done before and invest in communities where investment has been uneven or nonexistent while developing projects that will stand the test of time.

Now that we are in water’s moment, it is up to you to deliver for your communities. EPA’s implementation memo will help you do just that.

The memo lays out opportunities for state and local partners under nine priority areas, and I encourage you to read the full document. If you are interested in applying for infrastructure investment funding, contact your state SRF program manager and start the process now. If you are unfamiliar with the SRFs, and maybe this is your first time applying, thank you for acting on this unprecedented opportunity to invest in your communities. You are not alone in this, and I encourage you to learn more through our SRF 101 learning module

We have a lot of work ahead of us, but I cannot underscore what a transformational moment this is for water. I can only imagine this is how people felt when the Clean Water Act was passed nearly 50 years ago. Our rivers were on fire and a bipartisan act of Congress made it possible to have the environmental protections we have today.

Today, our infrastructure needs repairs. Together, we will invest in our communities so that in another 50 years our children can drink lead free water, our friends can fish on their local river and grill their catch for dinner, and our infrastructure will be resilient to a changing climate. The actions you take now are essential to securing that future. 

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