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Is Water Infrastructure Investment Distributed Fairly & Equitably?

Water investment distribution--is it fair and equitable?

The current federal and state system of water infrastructure funding is designed to improve the way we move, treat, or store water, wastewater, or stormwater. It’s not inherently designed to target disparities in infrastructure quality and service.

 

Addressing these disparities requires reimagining the dominant ways water is funded in the United States. At the same time, the water investments coming through the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act are already slated to flow through long-standing channels, so those who care about advancing equity must continue to innovate within this existing system.

 

Signed into law in 2021, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) is the largest federal investment in water infrastructure in 50 years—a vital down payment on investments long needed in water and for communities. This opportunity provides the water sector a moment to re-envision the power and possibilities of infrastructure investments. This is a moment to center water equity, climate action, economic opportunity, and One Water in water infrastructure and capital projects.    

 

The following Principles for Equitable Infrastructure Implementation provide some guidance for water and wastewater utilities, community partners, planners, engineers, architects, environmental justice leaders, educators, artists and culture bearers, and residents to work collaboratively to make the most of this moment.   


Principles for Equitable Infrastructure Implementation  

  • Prioritize community needs and ownership. Prioritize the needs of the most underserved. Build real partnerships, so all groups have agency in the process, outcomes, and sustainability of the work.   

  • Partner for greater impact. Commit to collaboration and relationship-building. Look for combined impact across departments, sectors, communities, and regions. Plan and act regionally and with cross-sector partners for greater impact and lasting benefits.

  • Maximize economic opportunity. Center affordability and community wealth-building, as well as workforce development and livability in water infrastructure projects. Advance policies that minimize negative effects or displacement.

  • Protect the planet. Build programs and infrastructure that minimize greenhouse gas emissions and maximize carbon sequestration opportunities. Support strategies and decision-making using the best available data and trends in climate impacts, population, and demographics. Refine strategies and decisions as climate information evolves.

  • Embrace transparency and creativity. Share information openly and maintain transparent and accountable processes. Lean into experimentation and commit resources to unlock new ways of doing things that can outlast the finite IIJA investment opportunity.

  • Invest for the future and build flexibility. Infrastructure investments are not equitable if they cannot ensure adequate and safe water services across generations. Design for the maximum climate projections and prioritize approaches that can adapt to changing realities and likely scenarios. 

 

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