WASHINGTON—Senators Peter Welch (D-VT) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) sent a letter today to the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO), calling on the office to study interagency data collection on areas of the country that are unserved or underserved by water and wastewater infrastructure. By some estimates, more than 2 million Americans lack access to safe drinking water and sanitation.
“This is an under researched and often neglected issue in American politics,” the lawmakers wrote. “All Americans—no matter where they live—deserve access to high-quality water infrastructure, and the federal government must more effectively collect data to ensure that federal dollars are targeting the communities of greatest need.”
In their letter, the lawmakers urged the GAO to study efforts at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to identify areas of the country that are unserved or underserved by water and wastewater infrastructure and examine the costs associated with installing and improving wastewater systems. This study will shed light on an often-neglected issue and prepare lawmakers to better address water and wastewater needs.
Both Senator Welch and Senator Booker are members of the Senate Agriculture Committee, which maintains jurisdiction over USDA. Senator Welch also chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Rural Development and Energy.
On Wednesday, July 19th, Sen. Welch convened a hearing of the Subcommittee on Rural Development and Energy titled “Rural Water: Modernizing Our Community Water Systems.” The hearing highlighted the critical importance of federal investments in water and wastewater infrastructure and included testimony from Catherine Coleman Flowers, Founder and CEO of the Rural Center for Enterprise and Environmental Justice and Joseph Duncan, Professional Engineer and General Manager of the Champlain Water District in South Burlington, Vermont. For video from the hearing, please click here.
To read the full text of the lawmakers’ letter, please click here.