U.S. Senate Passes Water Infrastructure Bill Funding Arizona Tribal Water Projects

Apr 30, 2021

The U.S. Senate Thursday passed a bipartisan bill to update the nation’s aging water systems. Many of its provisions are aimed at preventing water waste in areas like Arizona hard hit by drought. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports.

Phillip Yazzie waits for a water drum in the back of his pickup truck to be filled in Teesto, Ariz., on the Navajo Nation in February. A third of residents on the reservation lack water access in their homes. The bipartisan Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act, passed Thursday by the U.S. Senate, contains $50 million a year for tribal water access projects, including funding for 10 such initiatives in Arizona in particular.
Credit AP Photo/Felicia Fonseca

The $35 billion Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act is the first legislation related to the Biden-Harris administration’s sweeping infrastructure proposal to advance out of the Senate. It would invest in alternate water sources like storm and wastewater reuse and desalination projects. It would also shore up the nation’s water systems against climate change, drought, wildfire and cyber threats.

Arizona Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly is a cosponsor, and says it includes $50 million a year for tribal drinking water projects.

"There are a lot of communities that don’t have access to running water even now. I’m talking about just basic water infrastructure. Tribal communities still often lack access," says Kelly.

The bill reauthorizes the Indian Reservation Drinking Water Program, which would fund 10 projects in Arizona alone each year through the Environmental Protection Agency.

The U.S. House of Representatives will now consider the Water Infrastructure Act.