The NCSL Blog

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By Lauren Chavez

From washing your hands to the food on your dinner table, many of us may not think about the important role water plays in our day-to-day lives.

Today, the Imagine a Day Without Water campaign is raising awareness about the value of water, with utilities, public institutions, businesses and other organizations coming together with this call to action on its importance.

Around 90 percent of Americans receive water from public and private water utilities subject to the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). The SDWA ensures that drinking water meets standards for quality and safety. Pollutants such as nitrates, lead and perfluorinated chemicals are regulated to guarantee water is safe to drink.        

However, ensuring the safety of drinking water is not always the same as ensuring funding for drinking water infrastructure. State legislators are looking at policy options to enhance financing and improve water system infrastructure.

State Legislative Activity

State legislatures play an important role from appropriating funding programs to considering a wide variety of policy options, such as water efficient practices, best management practices for water quality, resource planning and more.

In recent years, state policymakers have adopted legislation to respond to aging water infrastructure, funding needs and water quality concerns.

Examples of recent enacted legislation:

  • Arizona SB 1494, 2018: Revises provisions relating to water quality control and expands the use of the Water Quality Fee Fund.
  • California Assembly Bill 2541, 2018: Amends the law that grants funding, principal forgiveness and financing on loans for the Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Fund to a project in a severely disadvantaged community.
  • Maryland SB 709, 2018: Declares that homeowners have access to certain affordability programs for water and sewer services and authorizes a political subdivision, a sanitary commission or an authority to develop and implement affordability programs.
  • New Hampshire SB 57, 2017: Makes an appropriation to the Department of Environmental Services for the purposes of funding eligible drinking water and wastewater projects under the state aid grant program. Funds specific water and wastewater projects to address drinking water contamination in Amherst, N.H.
  • Virginia SB 340, 2018: Requires the Department of Environmental Quality to prioritize cost-effective technologies to reduce nutrient loads of total phosphorus, total nitrogen or nitrogen containing ammonia over other water quality improvement methods in distributing grants from the Water Quality Improvement Fund.

These bills reflect the SDWA standards by leveraging federal funds to improve drinking water in the states. They allow for communities affected by aging or inadequate infrastructure to have access clean water.

For more information on what states are doing to address water policy issues, contact NCSL staff. A variety of related legislation are tracked in NCSL’s Environmental Health Database and Environmental Database.

Lauren Chavez is an intern with NCSL’s Environment, Energy and Transportation Program. Please contact Environmental Health Program Director Doug Farquhar or Senior Policy Specialist Mindy Bridges for more information.

Email Mindy

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About the NCSL Blog

This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.