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Senators Seek Help for Small Water Systems

Legislation Addresses Unfunded Mandates for Drinking Water

May 13, 2011

Washington, DC – Idaho Senators Jim Risch and Mike Crapo are reintroducing legislation that would ensure that small drinking water systems have the resources necessary to deliver safe drinking water to consumers while complying with multiple federal regulations. The senators say that smaller municipalities—such as a vast majority of those in Idaho—are facing increased obstacles in complying with federal regulations mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other agencies.

"Small communities in Idaho are hit hard when federal mandates are imposed on drinking water standards. This legislation requires the EPA to work with communities rather than dictate to them. It is important to have safe drinking water, but new standards need to be implemented through a working group process that is a partnership," said Risch.

"Many small communities cannot afford to comply with federal drinking water regulations without the assistance of the federal government," Crapo said. "Federal regulatory agencies should be true partners in developing drinking water regulations that municipalities can actually afford to implement."

The legislation would modify the Safe Drinking Water Act to require that the EPA provides the resources and assistance necessary to help small communities comply with drinking water regulations. Specifically, the legislation would stop the enforcement of federal regulations unless sufficient funding and resources were in place to comply with those regulations. It also provides exemptions for systems serving fewer than 10,000 customers if administrators of those systems need financial assistance and are taking all practical steps to comply with regulations. Water systems serving Indian Tribes are also specifically included under the legislation, which awaits consideration before the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee.

Senator James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), the ranking member of the EPW Committee, introduced the measure. Risch, Crapo and Senators Thad Cochran (R-Mississippi) and David Vitter (R-Louisiana) are original co-sponsors of the bill.