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April 29, 2021

Inhofe Praises Oklahoma Provisions in the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act of 2021

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, praised the Senate passage of the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act (DWWIA) of 2021 and announced provisions in the legislation that will benefit Oklahoma. Inhofe is a cosponsor of the legislation.

“Everyone agrees we need to support state and local efforts to protect our clean, safe drinking water,” Inhofe said. “I am glad to see the Senate pass the bipartisan Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act of 2021. If you only listen to the national media, you’d think Congress can’t come together to get much done, but this bill is proof that isn’t always the case. I am proud of the Oklahoma provisions we secured in this legislation and look forward to seeing it passed by the House and enacted soon.”

Inhofe also spoke on the Senate floor this week to highlight the legislation.

The following provisions in the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act of 2021 will directly benefit the state of Oklahoma:

Funding for Oklahoma Drinking Water and Waste Water Projects

  • Oklahoma is authorized to receive $318 million over 5 years, an increase of $175 million (123 percent), for water infrastructure projects.
  • Ensures projects will be prioritized based on state priorities, while maximizing long-term return on taxpayer investments by also improving resilience to new and emerging threats, including extreme weather events and emerging cybersecurity vulnerabilities.
  • Some key Oklahoma drinking water infrastructure projects funded under these programs are: Oklahoma City (improvements to North Canadian wastewater treatment plant); Lawton (upgrades to wastewater treatment plant); Stillwater (new water treatment plant pump station); and Bartlesville (new indirect potable water reuse project).
  • Will help Oklahoma achieve its Comprehensive Water Plan of using no more fresh water in 2060 than in 2010 (recent projects include: using treated wastewater for irrigation, enhanced leak detection analysis, and using recycled water for oil and gas producers).

Helps Small and Rural Communities complying with federal regulations

  • Ensures small and rural communities can access federal funding and technical assistance to comply with Federal regulations.
  • Empowers rural communities to work with technical experts at non-profit entities and state agencies to implement best practices and more efficiently comply with federal regulations.
  • Requires EPA to include rural voices when reporting on drinking water affordability for rural and urban low-income households.

Reauthorizes the Water Resources Research Act (WRRA)

  • WRRA established water research institutions at land-grant universities throughout the U.S. (including at OSU in Stillwater), and provides vital grant funding for research on wastewater re-use, produced water from oil and gas operations, and other local or regional water issues.
  • Oklahoma would receive $840,000 over four years, an increase of $340,000, for this important research.
  • Empowers additional research by reducing the local cost-share requirements.

Authorizes Enhanced Aquifer Recharge (EAR) Research in Ada, OK

  • EAR replenishes groundwater aquifers used to provide reliable municipal water supply, which is particularly important in areas with water shortages.
  • The EPA’s Kerr Research Center in Ada, as well as the City of Ada, are conducting EAR research in support of sole-source aquifers (i.e. an aquifer designated primarily for drinking water).
  • DWWIA increases the authorization for annual research funding into sole-source aquifers to $5 million (from $2 million), split equally between a state or local government entity and a research center.

A number of stakeholders voiced support for the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act of 2021:

“We are grateful for Sen. Inhofe’s leadership in ensuring Oklahoma priorities are included in the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act of 2021,” said Julie Cunningham, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board. "Because of his persistence, we have now secured funding which will help modernize our State's aging water infrastructure, build critical capacity to help address the $82 billion need identified in the Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan, and grow our economy. The built-in flexibilities of this bill meet the unique needs of communities and districts across the state and positively impact thousands of Oklahomans.”

“We thank Sen. Inhofe for his work to ensure our priorities were included in the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act,” said Shellie Chard, Director of the Water Quality Division of the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality. “Increased federal investment in small and rural water system infrastructure is critical in the protection of public health, environment and economic development in Oklahoma. The research funding for the Kerr Lab in Ada will help advance enhanced aquifer recharge not only in Oklahoma but across the United States. We have learned that many compliance solutions work very well for large water and wastewater systems, they do not work in small or rural systems. I am glad this bill includes rural voices in the development of compliance standards, which will be extremely helpful for rural communities across Oklahoma.”

“Sen. Inhofe’s continued emphasis on water infrastructure legislation over the years has been immeasurably helpful to Oklahoma State University,” said Kevin Wagner, Director and Berry Endowed Professor of the Oklahoma Water Resources Center at Oklahoma State University. “This bill provides vital grant funding for water research that impacts not only Oklahoma, but the entire nation. There is still much to be done in the way of research and, with Sen. Inhofe’s leadership, we are able to continue that vital work.”

“We are thankful in Ada for Senator Inhofe’s attention to the critical issues associated with aquifer recharge,” said Cody Holcomb, Ada City Manager. “In particular, the issue of enhanced aquifer recharge is one that we have been focused on in ensuring that our aquifer remains a robust and important source of drinking water for future generations.  The inclusion of language in the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act to authorize funding for and to address enhanced aquifer recharge for sole source aquifers is critical to ensuring that this will remain the case.”

 


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