Water Infrastructure Advocacy

Aging and degraded water infrastructure increasingly threatens access to safe Great Lakes water. The Great Lakes Commission’s advocacy program promotes federal programs, policies and funding that help states, provinces and local communities improve and manage all water infrastructure—drinking water, stormwater and wastewater—and endeavors to remove barriers and promote approaches that ensure the region’s water infrastructure is resilient and operates effectively in all stages of the water cycle.

2018 Legislative Request

The Great Lakes region faces water infrastructure needs that threaten our drinking water, the health of lakes and rivers, and more than nine million jobs. Nearly $10 billion is needed annually over the next two decades to maintain and upgrade drinking water, stormwater and wastewater infrastructure in the eight Great Lakes states.

To complement state and local efforts, the Great Lakes Commission calls for increased federal investment and reforms to expand access to the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, Rural Development Infrastructure, and Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act programs. We also request reforms to increase private sector investment in water infrastructure and new clean water technologies, and to protect source water and promote water affordability.

The Commission’s 2017 Joint Action Plan for Clean Water Infrastructure and Services recommends these and other actions to advance a more sustainable water infrastructure system for the Great Lakes region.

The above legislative request is included as part of the Great Lakes Commission 2018 Legislative Priorities: An Agenda for Great Lakes Restoration and Economic Revitalization (Presented to the 115th Congress: March 2018)


Aging and degraded water infrastructure (for drinking water, wastewater treatment and stormwater management) increasingly threatens reliable access to safe and secure Great Lakes water resources. Failing wastewater infrastructure continues to release sewage and polluted stormwater into local waterways every year, contaminating Great Lakes beaches, threatening public health and damaging local economies. Similarly, aging drinking water infrastructure is a costly challenge for many communities, as illustrated by threats to drinking water in Toledo, Ohio, from toxic algae in Lake Erie, and in Flint, Michigan, from lead contamination from aging water pipes. Water and wastewater infrastructure challenges are exacerbated by climate change impacts, such as increased runoff caused by more severe and frequent storm events that lead to increased flooding, sanitary and storm sewer overflows, and risks to public health and the health of the Great Lakes.

Significant and continued funding for water infrastructure modernization is the only way to ensure the safe and sustainable supply and management of water resources for continued protection of communities, businesses, industries and the environment from development impacts, pollution, climate change and other stressors.

As water-related investments move forward, there are significant opportunities to use green infrastructure and to better integrate water resource management to improve efficiency, lower costs and enhance the quality and quantity water resources. Using natural features aligned with the hydrologic cycle, promoting water conservation and managing water infrastructure on a watershed basis can reduce costs, provide added benefits, and increase resiliency to impacts from climate change and other challenges.

The Great Lakes Commission is promoting enhanced coordination among agencies responsible for drinking water supply, wastewater management and stormwater management to improve integration of these programs; implement sustainable water use policies, programs and practices; establish long-term funding mechanisms for water infrastructure that incorporate water conservation/efficiency and green infrastructure; develop shared goals and gather information to track progress; and advance regulatory and non-regulatory approaches to integrated water management on a watershed basis.

For More Information

Victoria Pebbles
Program Director
Great Lakes Commission
[email protected]

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