The proposed Water Protection and Reinvestment Act (WPRA) of 2009 would discourage water conservation, according to testimony presented to the House Committee on Transportation by the Washington-based National Association of Water Companies (NAWC). WPRA, introduced by Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., would create a $10 billion annual fund for repairing corroded pipes, overburdened sewer systems and other water infrastructure items.

Blumenauer says WPRA, which would be funded by small fees on bottled beverages, products disposed of in wastewater, corporate profits and the pharmaceutical industry, is needed and would create more than 250,000 jobs. "When water mains are bursting through the streets, and sewage is leaking into our lakes, rivers, and streams, we have gotten past the point of out of sight out of mind," Blumenauer said in a statement. "As we look for ways to jumpstart our economy, [WPRA] will create hundreds of thousands of jobs while protecting the health of people and the environment."

However, NAWC claims that the trust fund "would serve to further mask the value of water through taxes on unrelated activities and discourage responsible water use and conservation through heavy, broad utility subsidizations," according to the association's testimony. Instead, NAWC is calling on Congress to set federal policies that include investments in water infrastructure, and which encourage conservation by homeowners and industries. "We are concerned that, by masking the true cost and value of water service, the Water Protection and Reinvestment Act would directly undermine these goals, and could in the long run increase the infrastructure challenge. Congress should stay focused on encouraging long-term, efficient and sustainable utility management," said NAWC Executive Director Michael Deane in a statement.

View more information in the NAWC press release.