Buy America provisions will help ensure our water is safe while providing an economic boost.
There’s perhaps nothing more important for our health and well-being than access to safe drinking water.
And there are devastating consequences when we neglect our water infrastructure, as we’ve sadly seen in places like Flint.
But there is some good news to share: Legislation making its way through Congress aims to repair and rebuild our water infrastructure, and American manufacturing has a role to play in this vital effort.
The Water Resources Development Act "provides critical investment in the country's aging drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, assists poor and disadvantaged communities in meeting public health standards under the Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act, and promotes innovate technologies to address drought and other critical water resource needs," according to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. It also provides emergency help to cities like Flint and other communities "facing drinking water contamination."
The bill is a crucial piece of legislation, and Congress should move to immediately pass it. When Congress does, Members should also be sure to include strong Buy America provisions. As our Riley Ohlson explained in an email to AAM supporters, doing that would provide an economic boost:
"Investing won’t just safeguard our health – it also will help America’s bottom line, as one-fifth of the U.S. economy depends on clean water.
Every $1 we spend on water infrastructure improvements generates $6 in returns. And if we ensure taxpayer dollars are spent on American-made materials like iron and steel, we will create new jobs and invest even more in the American economy!"
It's not just about the economic gains, either. American-made infrastructure allows for better managed projects, since officials are able to oversee production much more easily than when materials are manufactured overseas. That's one of the reasons why the San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge project was such a disaster — the steel for the project was Made in China, and was so poorly constructed that it had to be redone. Doing so led to significant delays and cost overruns.
While we can't say what might have happened if that steel had been made in the United States, it is well-known that production quality standards here are much more stringent than in China, so we can assume the quality would have been better from the start. But even if there were any issues, officials likely would have caught them sooner, since they wouldn't have had to travel halfway around the world to check on production.
As Congress rightly prepares to address the issues plaguing our water system, it also should make sure the materials used are Made in America. Doing so would be a win for our public health — and a win for our economy.