According to the American Public Works Association (APWA), the gap between what is funded and what is needed for the nation's water infrastructure measures near $500 billion. Legislation passed by the U.S. House of Representatives is designed to reduce the shortfall.

The Water Quality Financing Act of 2007 calls for delivering $20 billion over the next five years to the Clean Water Act state revolving fund. The bill also offers individual states greater freedom in putting together the financing packages they can offer to municipalities and counties, including negative-interest loads, principal forgiveness, and other financing mechanisms.

“The need for increased long-term water infrastructure is extreme,” says William Verkest, APWA president. “This is an important step in continuing the federal, state, and local partnership to protect and preserve the health of the nation's waters.”

Also approved by the House were the Healthy Communities Water Supply Act of 2007, which reauthorizes $125 million for the U.S. EPA's alternative water source grants program; the Water Quality Investment Act of 2007 reauthorizes appropriations for controlling combined sewer and sanitary sewer overflows.

“To eliminate combined sewer overflows, communities must redesign sewer systems to separate sewage flows from stormwater flows, or provide significant additional capacity to eliminate the possibility that combined flows will exceed the limits of the infrastructure,” says Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas. “Either way, this will be a massive undertaking—estimated by the EPA to cost more than $50 billion.”