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May 5, 2009
     
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Government Relations


Pandemic Flu Resources on WaterISAC

In light of the federal government's declaration of a Public Health Emergency due to the recent Influenza A/H1N1 Flu outbreak, WaterISAC has made available on its Web site a number of resources related to pandemic flu planning. Resources include general planning information as well as checklists.

After logging in to the subscriber portal, simply type "flu" in the portal search bar. Once the search results have appeared, click "More Options" and make sure that the "When:" option is set to "All."

In addition, WaterISAC recommends that all utilities review their pandemic planning and business continuity procedures and contact their local, county or state health officials for area-specific information. WaterISAC will continue to post updates on the portal.

WaterISAC also recommends visiting the CDC Swine Flu Web site at www.cdc.gov/swineflu or getting CDC emergency updates on Twitter at http://twitter.com/cdcemergency.

 

‘Buy American’ Provisions for New Stimulus Projects Not Readily Waived by EPA

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), enacted in February, contained provisions requiring procurement of stimulus-funded projects to meet a 100 percent domestic content. These “Buy American” provisions are of special concern to the EPA relative to the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund programs (SRF) because a limited amount of water infrastructure equipment and materials is actually manufactured in the United States.

Federal agencies are given authority to waive these controversial provisions if such a waiver is deemed in the public interest. EPA has waived the Buy American procurement requirements to allow for already-funded water infrastructure projects to refinance loans. The same waiver does not apply to projects that have not yet been funded or were funded prior to last October, the start of the current fiscal year.

Aside from this circumstantial waiver, EPA has not shown an initial inclination to waive the provisions in other circumstances, though it has created a process to do so. EPA’s guidance, issued April 28, requires public interest waivers to run through federal headquarters and be signed by the acting water office chief. Some utilities intend to pursue waivers.

EPA Guidance on Implementation of Buy American Provisions

 

Stimulus Funds Begin To Flow

Several states recently announced their plans for the use of federal stimulus funds earmarked for water-related projects under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. For example, California, which stands to receive approximately $260 million, intends to invest in facilities designed to provide emergency drought relief, address dam safety concerns and protect aquatic habitat, thereby enabling the diversion of additional quantities of water to agricultural interests. Ohio, on the other hand, reportedly intends to use its $278 million of federal stimulus money primarily to construct and/or upgrade water and wastewater systems.

 

National Water Research and Development Act Passes House

A bill that would create a national inter-agency committee to coordinate among the more than 20 federal agencies conducting water research passed the House of Representatives 413-10 in honor of Earth Day. Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) of the House Committee on Science and Technology introduced the bill aimed at coordinating federal water research and development efforts amid growing worries about the effects of climate change on the nation’s water supplies.

Among others tasks, the inter-agency committee will be charged with developing a national water research and assessment plan that will lead funding decisions, and a national water census, which will house information on the availability, quality and quantity of the nation’s water resources. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is authorized to receive $2 million annually over five years to facilitate these research activities.

Additionally, the bill commissions a study to examine the feasibility and practicality of creating a national water pilot testing facility, creates the authority for the EPA to establish a wastewater and stormwater reuse and recycling technology demonstration program, and creates the authority for the EPA to establish a pilot program exploring the use of energy audits of water-related infrastructure to identify energy and water-saving opportunities.

A similar bill has not yet been introduced in the Senate.