2024 Washington Summit Preview

United States Capitol Building

NUCA National is pleased to report that we’ve wasted no time in 2024 achieving major success in Washington.

For the past several months, preserving annual appropriations funding for water programs – and in particular, the Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving Funds (SRF) – has been the main priority for our association. The threat of nearly $2 billion in drastic cuts to the annual FY2024 appropriation for the Clean Water and Drinking Water SRF fund has loomed large since last July, when the House Appropriations Interior and Environment Subcommittee initially unveiled their proposed FY2024 legislation. With the news in March from Congress that funding levels were going to be maintained at previous levels, we should be able to breathe a sigh of relief.

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However, issues around water funding remain. While the advocacy of NUCA, NUCA’s members, and other likeminded associations helped avoid disaster by staving off devastating funding cuts for FY2024, the fact remains that the annual appropriations for water funding have remained flat for several years. Furthermore, the percentage of SRF dollars diverted to specific projects as Congressionally-directed spending grants (“earmarks”) continues to increase – cutting into funding available for state intended use plans and threatening the long-term health of the SRF programs themselves.

At the same time, needs are higher than ever. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the 20-year national drinking water infrastructure need for the United States as estimated by the 7th Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs Survey and Assessment is $625 billion. This is a 32% increase over the 6th DWINSA ($472.6 billion) and an increase of $152 billion in only five years. Those numbers are just for drinking water – we are currently awaiting the new estimated Clean Watersheds Needs Survey numbers for wastewater/stormwater. The previous analysis, conducted in 2012, found needs of $271 billion. Taken together, it is likely that there will be funding needs of over $1 trillion over the next 20 years for upgrades and repairs to public water and wastewater systems. The funding gap is estimated in the hundreds of billions.

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Congress must act to increase annual appropriations for the Clean Water and Drinking Water SRFs in FY2025, and NUCA intends to be one of the loudest groups pressuring them to do just that. At our upcoming Washington Summit, we intend to make a strong argument to increase water funding in FY2025, as well as communicate to Congress our needs to successfully implement the $55 billion in federal water infrastructure investment being doled out through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act through FY2026. We’re going to supply Washington Summit attendees with the information and talking points to make this point clear to Congress.

Meanwhile, Congress continues to face other critical deadlines, which at this rate may end up as additional items on our Summit agenda. The Pipeline Safety and Hazardous Materials Administration (PHMSA) re-authorization under the PIPES Act and its associated NUCA-supported damage prevention language still remains in legislative limbo. As of today in mid-March, the full House has failed to take up reauthorization language that passed by an overwhelmingly bipartisan majority in the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee. And to make matters worse, the corresponding Senate committee has yet to even produce language.

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Likewise, NUCA-supported permitting and tax reform legislation also continues to move through the House, but has stalled in the Senate. All these and more will be major priorities for NUCA National in early 2024.

NUCA is also looking ahead to major workforce development legislation being passed in 2024. This includes reauthorization of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), one of our main vehicles for funding technical and vocational education, as well as legislation expanding Pell Grant eligibility to short term vocational training programs, and other legislation to support our nation’s trade schools and training programs.

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Workforce capacity remains one of the biggest bottlenecks to successful infrastructure buildout – contractors and manufacturers all across the United States have reported significant and ongoing challenges in hiring and retaining employees, even as they have raised wages and expanded benefits packages. According to industry estimates, the construction industry as a whole will need more than 500,000 employees this year beyond the normal pace of hiring, and manufacturing – crucial to meeting the supply chain demands imposed by the Buy America law – may have over two million unfilled positions by 2030. Congress must provide the necessary support to meet those needs, and we hope you can come to Washington next month to help us tell the story of our industry to your lawmakers.

Congress must move swiftly to address these key issues before election 2024 truly gets underway. The May 22-24 Washington Summit will be the best opportunity we have to directly influence lawmakers before the campaign season takes off in summer 2024.

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Registration is now open for Summit. For more information, we invite you to visit the Summit website at
WeDigAmerica.org. We hope to see you in D.C. this May!

Zack Perconti is the Vice President of NUCA Government Affairs.

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