Maui Business

Gabbard Introduces Bill To Upgrade Water Infrastructure in Hawai‘i

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Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. Photo Courtesy

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) joined lawmakers on Wednesday, April 25, to introduce a bill that would upgrade and protect community water and sewer systems across the country.

The Water Affordability, Transparency, Equity and Reliability Act would authorize $35 billion a year to improve drinking water and wastewater services in states nationwide, including renovating old and lead-ridden water pipes, and stopping sewage overflows, and other problems stemming from a national water affordability crisis.

Over 90% of Hawai‘i’s drinking water is from groundwater, and Hawai‘i has more cesspools than any other state— half of which are located in areas that require urgent action.


The bill would also create an estimated 700,000 to 945,000 new middle-class jobs.

“Years of neglecting our water infrastructure has spurred water contamination crises across the country in places like Flint, MI; Philadelphia, PA; Baltimore, MD; among others,” Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard said.

Rep. Gabbard added that according to a 2017 report, Hawai‘i needs an estimated $1.05 billion in drinking water investment over the next 20 years to ensure safe water for Hawai‘i people.


“Ensuring safe, affordable, and accessible water for all is not a political issue – it’s a basic human right that is essential for life. Our legislation would make consistent investments in critical water and wastewater infrastructure a priority for our federal government, and take the steps that are sorely needed now to protect health and wellness for generations to come,” she added.

The WATER Act is supported by numerous organizations including Alliance for Democracy; EarthJustice; EcoWorks; Food & Water Watch; National Nurses United; Progressive Democrats of America; Public Citizen; Rural Community Assistance Partnership; Water Alliance; American Federation of Teachers, American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America, and more.

This legislation would provide dedicated annual federal support to:

  • Fully fund the Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving Funds;
  • Provide additional technical assistance to rural and small municipalities and Native American governments;
  • Increase funding to construct, repair and service household drinking water wells;
  • Create a new grant program for the repair, replacement or upgrading of household septic tanks and drainage fields;
  • Increase funding to Native American governments for water infrastructure;
  • Require EPA to coordinate a study about water affordability, discrimination by water and sewer providers, public participation in water regionalization efforts, and water shutoffs;
  • Restrict Drinking Water SRF funding to publicly or locally owned systems;
  • Provide funding for public schools to test and replace drinking water infrastructure; and
  • Provide grants to replace lead service lines serving households.

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