Highlighting the Value of Water to Congress

AWWA in Washington D.C.Two Louisville Water leaders recently joined hundreds of other water professionals in Washington, D.C., for Water Week, an annual event that highlights funding needs and gives utilities an opportunity to ask for congressional support on water issues.

“The trip was successful in that we met with several members’ legislative staff and conveyed our message well,” said Pete Goodmann, Director of Water Quality & Research. “I was accompanied by [Louisville Water Vice President] Kelley Dearing Smith, Russ Evans of Owensboro Municipal Utilities, and Daren Thompson of Lebanon Water. We found that it was particularly helpful that we had representatives of large, medium, and small water systems present so that each of us could discuss the varied impacts of priority issues for our utilities.”

For example, Evans highlighted a need for at least $35 million for advanced PFAS treatment, while the utility’s operating budget is only $10 million. Thompson explained the need for infrastructure funding to replace old water mains.

AWWA in Washington D.C.As part of Water Week, the group joined more than 200 water professionals from 48 states for the American Water Works Association (AWWA) Fly-In. Overall, AWWA members conducted more than 300 congressional office visits.

The Kentucky contingent met with legislative staff from the offices of Representatives Andy Barr, James Comer, Thomas Massey, and Morgan McGarvey. They dropped off information and had brief conversations with staff members for Representatives Hal Rogers and Brett Guthrie as well as Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul.


“In each of the meetings, we addressed the importance of AWWA and local utilities in ensuring safe and accessible drinking water in protecting public health, enhancing community safety, and providing opportunities for economic development,” Goodmann said. “Congressional staff listened, took notes, asked questions, and asked for follow-up information and changes in status of the issues.”

“Often, consumers take for granted the investments that make reliable and safe drinking water possible,” Dearing Smith said, “but in the legislative visits, it was clear that staff members and Kentucky’s congressional members value water. We just have to be adamant on advocating for the financial support.”

The group promoted support for four priority issues:

  • Ensuring affordable drinking water for all through legislation reauthorizing the Low Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
  • Holding polluters accountable for PFAS under CERCLA (the Superfund law) by supporting legislation that would exempt water and wastewater utilities from liability.
  • Investing in water infrastructure by supporting appropriations for the Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving Loan Funds (SRF) and the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFEA).
  • AWWA in Washington D.C.Expanding water utility cybersecurity preparedness and resilience by supporting legislation that would leverage a collaborative approach with industry and regulatory agencies.

“The interaction of the group with the congressional staff was important to ensuring the representatives, senators, and their staffs understand their constituent water utilities’ priorities, perspectives, and needs,” Goodmann said. “Staff appreciate these relationships with the utilities as we can be a source of reliable information for them. [They] are responsible for a great variety of issues and don’t have the time or the insight to conduct research on these varied and complicated issues.”