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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2023 - 2024 Regular Session


Posted: December 14, 2022 03:26 PM
From: Senator Katie J. Muth
To: All Senate members
Subject: The Pennsylvania Water Resource Act
In the near future, I will be reintroducing companion legislation to a bill sponsored in the House by Representative Mike Sturla. This was previously SB 868 from the 2021-2022 session.
Water is Pennsylvania’s most precious resource. It is also the only natural resource Pennsylvanians own—ownership which is granted by the Pennsylvania Constitution. Unfortunately, however, Pennsylvania has nearly 7,000 impaired waterways, more than any other state in the nation. Nutrients, sediment, acid mine drainage, and erosion are many of the factors contributing to our water quality issues. Further compounding these matters is our crumbling water infrastructure, which is not only a danger to our environment, but also public health.

With the Commonwealth facing federal mandates to improve our water quality and municipalities facing unfunded MS4 mandates, Pennsylvanians are faced with paying tens of billions of dollars to improve our water quality and maintain a resource that is rightfully theirs. Meanwhile, thousands of commercial industries—such as utilities, bottled water suppliers, oil & gas extraction, and recreational entities—take or “borrow” water from the Commonwealth’s waterways as part of their business model and pay nothing for it. When water is becoming scarce in parts of the United States and PA’s water resources are at a tipping point, we must find a way to reasonably fund our water improvement projects while protecting our natural resources.
This legislation would charge extraordinary water users—those who withdraw more than 10,000 per day (for comparative purposes, a resident uses about 100 gallons daily)—a nominal per gallon fee for removing water from Pennsylvania waterways. Those who withdraw more than 10,000 gallons per day (data is currently available from DEP) but return the water to its source after using the resource would be charged 1/100 of a cent per gallon (.0001), and those who remove it and never return the resource would be changed 1/10 of a cent per gallon (.001). Therefore, a 10,000-gallon withdrawal would cost $1 per day and $10 per day respectively.

Not counting residential, agricultural, and municipal water use that would be exempted from the fee in this legislation, there are approximately 8 BILLION gallons of water taken from PA waterways every day in increments of 10,000 gallons or more. This plan would raise approximately $350 million annually, which would be restricted for grants and financing opportunities for municipalities, watershed organizations and authorities to complete water improvement projects such as storm water management and the installation of riparian buffers—all of which will improve our water quality and quality of life without charging residential or agricultural users. Funds raised under this plan will stay “local,” meaning that all fees will stay in the watershed where they were generated.

As legislators, we are tasked with finding the most responsible ways to fund infrastructure projects while maintaining our natural resources and protecting public health. This plan does both. Please join in co-sponsoring this legislation to ensure clean local water for generations to come.

Introduced as SB278