President signs Fischer’s water flexibility bill into law

Bipartisan, bicameral legislation offered by U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE) became law earlier this week as part of the Water Infrastructure Improvement Act.

President Donald Trump on Jan. 14 signed into law H.R. 7279, which will permit the nation’s municipalities to develop a plan that integrates wastewater and stormwater management, among numerous other provisions, according to the congressional record summary.

“Everyone wants safe and clean water. That’s why we were able to build consensus and bring this bipartisan, bicameral measure over the finish line,” Sen. Fischer said on Tuesday. “Now communities like Omaha will have more flexibility to update water infrastructure and protect drinking water in a more effective and affordable manner.”

H.R. 7279 includes language from the Water Infrastructure Flexibility Act, S. 692/H.R. 2355. Sen. Fischer sponsored S. 692 in March 2017, while the U.S. House of Representatives version was introduced in May 2017 by U.S. Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH).

The new law provides communities with flexibility to prioritize investments in wastewater and stormwater projects in order to be compliant with the Clean Water Act, according to a summary of H.R. 7279 provided by Sen. Fischer’s office.

Additionally, H.R. 7279 creates an Office of Municipal Ombudsman at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to support cities in meeting federal environmental laws and requires the EPA to promote the option of “green infrastructure,” which allows communities to use natural processes to infiltrate or reuse stormwater runoff, among numerous other provisions, according to the summary.

Local governments spend as much as 7 cents of every tax dollar, on average, on maintaining their water and sewer systems, according to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, making infrastructure one of the largest expenses for cities.

The new law garnered the support of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, as well as the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, the National Association of Counties and the National League of Cities, according to Sen. Fischer.