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Water Week Fly-In: Water Recycling Priorities for 2023

Date: April 17, 2023

Water Week Fly-In: Water Recycling Priorities for 2023

As many of our members prepare for their upcoming visit to Washington, DC for our 2023 Water Week Policy Fly-In, now is a great time to review our Policy Priorities for 2023. This year, WateReuse is focused on critical issues including helping the Biden Administration advance water recycling as a key resiliency tool across federal agencies, securing funding for important water reuse programs in FY 2024 appropriations legislation, and ensuring that utilities are not held liable for costs related to cleaning up per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

FY 2024 Appropriations

Following the release of the President’s FY 2024 budget request in March, Congress is now deciding how much funding will go to critical water recycling programs. The President’s budget request includes full first-time funding for the Alternative Water Source Grants Pilot Program, the only nationwide water recycling grant program. We encourage all WateReuse members to urge their members of Congress to provide $25 million for the Alternative Water Source Grants Pilot Program in FY 2024.

Through the Alternative Water Source Grants Pilot Program, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will make competitive grants to water resource development agencies in all 50 states and territories to engineer, design, construct, and test water reuse systems. The WateReuse Association worked successfully with the White House Office of Management and Budget and U.S. EPA to include full funding for the program in the President’s fiscal year 2024 budget request. Now we must urge Congress to fund it in upcoming appropriations legislation. Our message is simple: “Congress should include $25 million for the Pilot Program for Alternative Water Source Grants (33 U.S.C. 1300) in FY 2024 Interior-Environment Appropriations legislation.”

PFAS Liabilities Under CERCLA

Late last year, EPA released a proposed rule designating two PFAS—PFOS and PFOA—as hazardous under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). You can read the WateReuse Association’s comments on the proposed rule here. EPA has stated that it does not have the authority to grant a CERCLA liability exemption for PFAS “receivers” such as wastewater and water utilities. The WateReuse Association is therefore asking Congress to protect utilities from enforcement actions and legal liability related to the rule. As you meet with your legislators, explain the predicament that utilities are in, and make the case that PFAS polluters—not PFAS receivers—should have to cover the cost of cleaning up PFAS contamination. We need Congress’ help to ensure that utilities are not targeted through PFAS CERCLA enforcement actions nor by third parties found liable for contamination and clean up.

Integrating Water Recycling Across the Federal Government

Water recycling can play a key role in helping federal agencies and departments meet a wide range of goals, including protecting public health and the environment, supporting vibrant communities and economies, and building sustainable and secure water supplies. Whether it’s the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Department of Housing ,and Urban Development, or any of the multitude of other federal agencies, there are many opportunities to support water recycling through internal agency policymaking and through grant, loan, and other programs. As you engage with federal agency officials this water week, please urge them to explore water recycling as a tool to help them meet their agency’s goals, and express your support for the newly formed Interagency Working Group on Water Reuse.

For our full list of appropriations priorities for FY 2024, including the Bureau of Reclamation’s Title XVI-WIIN and Desalination programs, see our full Policy Priorities.

For more information regarding Water Week, or to discuss any of the priorities detailed above, contact WateReuse Policy Director, Greg Fogel, at gfogel@watereuse.org.

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