WASHINGTON, DC – Opening remarks, as prepared, of Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment Ranking Member David Rouzer (NC-07) from today’s hearing entitled, “Sustainable Wastewater Infrastructure: Measures to Promote Resiliency and Climate Adaptation and Mitigation”:
Thank you, Chair Napolitano, for holding this hearing today, and thank you to our witnesses for being here to provide your experiences and thoughts on actions designed to encourage greater resiliency and sustainability of wastewater utilities. Specifically, we’ll hear how these can help in meeting the requirements of the Clean Water Act.
In particular, I’d like to thank Mr. Kim H. Colson, Director of the Division of Water Infrastructure, in my home state, at the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality. Mr. Colson is also the current President of the Council of Infrastructure Financing Authorities (CIFA), so he is in a great position to provide insight on the needs of communities, not just from the State of North Carolina, but for the country. Thank you for taking the time to appear here and provide your expertise today.
In February, we held a hearing on the broader topic of replacing and updating our Nation’s wastewater infrastructure. Today we’re going to get a little more specific and look at the energy challenges facing wastewater infrastructure.
It certainly makes sense for wastewater utilities to want to be as efficient and resilient as possible. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, for many municipalities, drinking water and wastewater facilities are their largest users of energy, often consuming 30 to 40 percent of their energy totals. EPA also notes that drinking water and wastewater operations account for two percent of the country’s overall energy use. It is fairly easy to see why.
These facilities often use very large machinery, including pumps, drives, motors, and other equipment which operate 24 hours a day. Additionally, many facilities were designed and built in an era when energy costs were not a major concern. So, clearly it makes sense to discuss energy use at these facilities.
EPA has noted that if municipalities incorporate energy efficiency practices into their water and wastewater plants, utilities can save 15 to 30 percent. But you also have to consider the opportunity cost – especially for small municipalities. An important part of today’s hearing is learning more about why a utility may not have an incentive to implement such measures.
In addition to wastewater utility energy use, we are also going to hear about resiliency and mitigation of natural disasters. As municipalities grapple with hurricanes, flooding, earthquakes, and other disasters, we need to think about this.
Today we are going to hear a lot about “green infrastructure,” referring to measures that use plant or soil systems, or permeable surfaces, to manage wet weather impacts. Under current federal law, all Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) programs must use a portion of their federal grant for projects that address green infrastructure, water and energy efficiency, or other environmental activities.
While these practices and technologies may very well benefit some communities, it is essential these programs do not take a “one-size-fits-all” approach. Some communities, especially small and rural communities, may not have the means or the need to utilize these specific practices in their communities.
Small and rural communities often have difficulty using the green infrastructure reserve and identifying projects in this category that can be successfully implemented in their communities. For example, while permeable pavement and other surfaces may be important to combat stormwater runoff in a large city, is it really the best use of funding for a community of a few thousand? Now this is not necessarily suggestive of an opinion, but just an example of a question I think that needs to be answered.
I also look forward to hearing more about these issues from our panel of experts here today.
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