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Drinking Water

Rep. Tonko delivers a speech on the Floor of the U.S. House of Representatives 
on September 13, 2018 hours before passage of his drinking water legislation.

Rep. Tonko delivers a one-minute speech on the Floor of the U.S. House of Representatives
on February 26, 2018 calling on Congress to bring up his bipartisan drinking water bill for a vote.

Fact sheet: "America's Struggling Water Systems"
Printable meme for social media: #ItsOurWater

America’s drinking water infrastructure is collapsing

  • In 2013, the EPA estimated $384.2 billion needed in the next 20 years just to keep these systems in working order.
  • Albany alone has 317 miles of pipes, some of them as much as 135 years old
  • 86% of U.S. households rely on public water supplies.
  • In 2017, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave America’s water infrastructure a D grade.
  • Leaking pipes lose an estimated 7 billion gallons of clean drinking water every day.
  • There are more than 700 water main breaks every day.
  • There may be as many as 10 million lead service lines in use.

Investment in our water systems creates jobs & protects local taxpayers

  • Every life and every job depends on access to safe drinking water.
  • Businesses choose areas with modern water systems over places where water safety, reliability, or affordability is a concern.
  • According to BlueGreen Alliance, $1 billion invested in water infrastructure creates more than 20,000 jobs.
  • Emergency repairs can be 3-10x as expensive as planned replacement.
  • Emergency breaks can require overtime staff hours, service outages, and can even result in property damage.

A History of Action*

2018 Bipartisan Budget Agreement:
"Every life and every job depends on access to safe, clean drinking water. Some 86 percent of American households depend on public water systems, and many of these systems date back to the 1800s and are in need of major repairs or replacement. My Democratic colleagues and I fought and won some $50 million in additional funding for states to repair drinking water systems and another $50 million to support state-run clean water initiatives." - Rep. Paul Tonko

Rep. Tonko has introduced ambitious drinking water legislation known as the AQUA Act to repair and upgrade America's drinking water systems. His bill would provide significant support to state and local governments working to maintain, upgrade and replace their existing local drinking water systems. Rep. Tonko was able to secure several major provisions from that legislation in H.R. 3387, the Drinking Water System Improvement Act of 2017, a major bipartisan bill that was passed out of the Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Environment, where he serves as Ranking Member, as well as through the full Energy & Commerce Committee. It now awaits a vote by the full House.

  • H.R. 3387, the Drinking Water System Improvement Act of 2017 would replenish EPA’s Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF), providing $8 billion over five years. The DWSRF is the primary source of federal funding for drinking water systems. In addition, this legislation would:
    • Require “Buy America” and prevailing wage standards to ensure that American workers are benefiting from these investments.
    • Provide $750 million over five years, to support State water offices through the Public Water System Supervision grant program.
    • Require water systems serving over 3,300 persons to monitor for unregulated contaminants, such as PFOA. Currently, only systems serving more than 10,000 people are required to do this monitoring.
    • Establish a $5 million per year grant program to provide assistance to schools and daycare centers with drinking water fountains containing lead components.
    • Require water system risk assessments reviewing resilience of systems from malevolent acts and natural hazards, such as extreme weather events.
    • Provide additional support to disadvantaged communities by increasing the maximum and minimum amounts of DWSRF assistance for these communities.
    • Extend the time for DWSRF loans to be repaid in full from 20 years to 30 after a project’s completion, and up to 40 for disadvantaged communities.

READ: "Building a Water Workforce for America's Future" by Rep. Paul Tonko, Roll Call, March 15, 2018

Talks with Tonko: Clean Water Beer Summit

Shmaltz Brewing in Clifton Park, NY: Congressman Tonko held a "Clean Water Beer Summit" where he was joined by local elected officials, business leaders, water managers and other drinking water systems experts for a tour of Shmaltz Brewing Company followed by a round-table discussion on the Capital Region’s drinking water needs and priority concerns.


  • Congressman Paul D. Tonko
  • Pete Bardunias, Southern Saratoga Chamber President & CEO
  • Joe Coffey, City of Albany Water & Water Supply Commissioner
  • Jamie Herman, New York Rural Water Association CEO
  • Jeremy Cowan, Shmaltz Brewing Company Owner & Founder
  • Steve Hamilton, Shmaltz Brewing Company Tasting Room Manager
  • Mary Beth Bianconi, Delaware Engineering Senior Project Manager
  • Phil Barrett, Clifton Park Supervisor
  • George Kansas, Bethlehem Commissioner of Public Works
  • Kevin Tollisen, Halfmoon Supervisor
  • David VanLuven, Bethlehem Town Supervisor  

Related coverage:

The Daily Gazette:
Municipalities discuss water issues with Rep. Tonko at summit
The Recorder:
Tonko talks taps, visits city water treatment plant during regional tour

Drinking Water System Visits


Town of Rotterdam, NY
: Rotterdam draws its water through wells that tap into the Great Flats Aquifer, a naturally purified source requiring less treatment than surface water that also serves the City of Schenectady. The Town of Rotterdam has two independently managed water districts that operate their own wells, pumps, storage tanks and distribution systems. In 2017, the Times Union reported on the steps being taken by the town to address flood risks to the system. Rep. Tonko has pushed efforts in Washington to require water systems to conduct assessments of vulnerabilities to extreme weather and acts of terrorism.

Related coverage:

Spectrum News: Tonko in Rotterdam, on push to fix water infrastructure
Northeast Public Radio (WAMC): Rep. Tonko To Tour Capital Region Water Infrastructure

Beech-Nut in Florida, NY
: Congressman Tonko toured Beech-Nut Nutrition Corporation's baby food manufacturing facility with Kristina M. Johnson, Chancellor of The State University of New York,to discuss the Capital Region's workforce training and water infrastructure needs. Beech-Nut relies on the City of Amsterdam water system to supply its manufacturing operation. Amsterdam municipal water is used in the production and processing of its baby food products as well as for cleaning and for plant steam generation. In 2017, the facility used 65 million gallons of water at an average rate of 275,000 gallons per day.


  • Congressman Paul D. Tonko
  • Kristina M. Johnson, Chancellor of The State University of New York
  • Mark Rodriguez, President & CEO of Beech-Nut Nutrition Corporation
  • Jeff Hisert, Vice President of Manufacturing of Beech-Nut Nutrition Corporation
  • Dr. Dusty Swanger, President of Fulton Montgomery Community College
  • Mark Kilmer, President of the Fulton Montgomery Regional Chamber

Related coverage:

The Recorder: Tonko tours Beech-Nut facility in push for safe drinking water
The Daily Gazette: Beech-Nut builds FMCC program as it expands workforce
News 10 ABC: Congressman Tonko visits Beech-Nut facility to push for safe drinking water

City of Rensselaer & Town of East Greenbush, NY
: Rensselaer buys its municipal water from the City of Troy. Troy gets its water from the spring-fed Tomhannock Reservoir. Water flows from the reservoir to the Troy Water Treatment Plant, which removes any sediment, contaminants and any organisms. Finished water is held in two 5 million gallon tanks and then sent through the distribution system and to surrounding communities. In 2014, Rensselaer had a $7,000,000 project approved from the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund. This funding was used to upgrade its pump station, build new water storage and replace a water distribution main.

Related coverage:

Troy Record: Congressman visits Troy during push to aid drinking water system
Saratogian: Tonko talks infrastructure during Capital Region visit

Village of Castleton-on-Hudson
, NY: Castleton-on-Hudson draws its water through four drilled wells that tap into groundwater, a naturally purified source requiring less treatment than surface water. The village water supply also serves some neighbors in the Town of Schodack, including Maple Hill Middle School and Maple Hill High School. In February 2015, former Castleton Mayor Joe Keegan testified before Rep. Tonko’s Environment Subcommittee on the need for EPA to support technical assistance for small and rural water systems.

Related coverage:

Times Union: Tonko tours Castleton plant

City of Amsterdam
, NY: Amsterdam relies on surface water drawn from a combination of three city-owned reservoirs located approximately 13 miles from the city. Each of the three reservoirs has its own characteristics of water quality. This requires different chemical treatment at the Water Treatment Plant, depending on which source is being used. In 2009, Amsterdam received over $10,000,000 from the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund to upgrade and rehabilitate the city’s water treatment plant.


*NOTE: this list of actions was compiled after the Congressman's major drinking water push in early 2018 and will continue to be expanded by staff to include his much longer history of drinking water advocacy.

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