Legislation was introduced March 8 in the US Senate that would establish a National Commission on the Infrastructure of the United States to complete a study of current conditions and recommend federal priorities within three years. Among the infrastructure systems that would be evaluated by the commission are drinking water systems, roads, bridges, and other public works.

The National Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2006 (S. 2388) was co-sponsored by Senators George V. Voinovich, R-Ohio, Thomas Carper, D-Del., and Hillary R. Clinton D-N.Y., and was referred to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

The legislation defines infrastructure as nonmilitary facilities including water supply and distribution systems, wastewater collection and treatment facilities, surface transportation facilities, mass-transit facilities, airports or airway facilities, resource recovery facilities, waterways, levees, and related flood-control facilities, docks or ports, school buildings, and solid-waste disposal facilities.

The seven-member commission would be charged with ensuring that the nation”s infrastructure meets current and future demands and facilitates economic growth. The report that the commission would product would be submitted to Congress in February 2009, detailing infrastructure legislation and administrative actions deemed necessary for the following five, 15, 30 and 50 years.

The commission”s study must include capacity, age and condition of public infrastructure; repair and maintenance needs; financing methods and investment requirements. Recommendations on federal infrastructure program priorities must be included as well.

In a statement, the American Water Works Association (AWWA, www.awwa.org) endorsed the legislation. “The local water utilities of this country have made and will continue to make the major infrastructure investments with local revenues,” Tom Curtis, AWWA deputy executive director was quoted as saing. “The United States can boast the finest water and wastewater systems in the world. This infrastructure has served us well and much of it can continue to serve us well for years to come. But it cannot do so forever unless we take steps now to counter its natural wear-down due to age.”