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EPA Declares $2.7B in Water Infrastructure Funds

Thursday, March 25, 2021

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In celebration of World Water Day earlier this week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the availability of $2.7 billion in State Revolving Funds to assist state communities, tribes and territories with infrastructure projects that help provide safe drinking water and protect surface waters across the nation.

In addition to the SRFs, the EPA also announced a new $12 million grant program to help wastewater utilities that serve small, rural and tribal communities. Both initiatives are reported to reflect on World Water Day’s theme, the value of water, and demonstrate the Agency’s commitment to building back better while helping support vital water services where they are most needed. 

“EPA is committed to partnering with states, tribes, and territories to invest in infrastructure projects and protect surface waters in communities across the United States, ensuring that all Americans, especially those living in underserved communities, have access to safe and clean water and opportunities for economic growth,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “On World Water Day, we are proud to help support improved water infrastructure across America through our SRF programs and technical assistance grants.” 

New Water Funding Opportunities

In breaking down the infrastructure funding opportunities, the EPA reports that it has made more than $1.1 billion available in new grant funding for the Drinking Water SRF. The program was established in 1996 by the Amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act and is a federal-state partnership to help ensure safe drinking water and provides financial support to water systems and to state safe water programs.

tuachanwatthana / Getty Images

In celebration of World Water Day earlier this week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the availability of $2.7 billion in State Revolving Funds to assist state communities, tribes, and territories with infrastructure projects that help provide safe drinking water and protect surface waters across the nation.

According to the EPA, funds through this SRF can be used for loans that help drinking water systems remove lead service lines, increase cybersecurity, improve system resiliency to climate driven disasters such as floods, and install treatment for emerging contaminants, like PFAS. Additionally, the grant funding also offers financing flexibilities, including extended payback time periods and loan principal forgiveness, to ensure that all communities can have access to these vital funds.

More than $51 million in DWSRF grant funding is available to tribes, U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia to use for drinking water system upgrades.

This year, the EPA is also providing approximately $1.6 billion in new federal grant funding for the Clean Water SRF. Like the DWSRF, the CWSRF is a federal-state partnership that provides communities low-cost financing for a wide range of water quality infrastructure projects, including modernizing aging wastewater infrastructure, implementing water reuse and recycling, and addressing stormwater, among others.

More than $64 million in CWSRF grant funding is available to tribes, certain U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia for infrastructure projects.

Regarding the new $12 million competitive grant program, the EPA reports that it is currently requesting applications for projects to provide training and technical assistance for small, rural, and tribal wastewater utility systems and onsite septic systems. The program was first authorized by America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 and builds from previous EPA technical assistance efforts to help wastewater utilities through technical assistance. Specifically, the grants work to ensure that smaller wastewater systems have the knowledge, training, and technical assistance needed so they can continue to provide safe sanitation to citizens across the country.

Eligible applicants for the new program include public and private nonprofit organizations that are qualified and experienced in providing on-site training and technical assistance to small publicly owned treatment works and onsite/decentralized wastewater treatment systems.

Applications are being accepted by the EPA until May 17, with awards to cooperative agreements slated to be announced by this summer.

In addition to the $12 million appropriated by Congress for these grants for Fiscal Year 2020, Congress appropriated an additional $18 million in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. The availability of the funds is slated to be announced by the EPA this summer as well.

Previous Water Funding, Proposed Legislation

In February of last year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and EPA announced a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) that aimed to help water systems face the challenges of aging infrastructure, workforce shortages, increasing costs, limited management capacity and declining rate bases.

According to the EPA’s news release, the decision supported its 50th anniversary and February theme of protecting the nation’s waters, which includes surface water protection, safe drinking water and water infrastructure investments.

At the time, reports claimed that more than 97% of 153,000 public drinking water systems in the U.S. served less than 10,000 people, while 78% of the 15,000 wastewater treatment plants treated less than one million gallons per day. These small systems were often found in rural locations and often faced challenges when working to meet federal and state regulations to successfully provide affordable drinking water and wastewater services.

Through the MOA, a formal collaboration was created between the EPA and USDA as to help create short- and long-term sustainability in rural water systems. To achieve the implementation of innovative strategies and tools, the agreement focuses on four main areas:

  • Provide training and education resources, among others, to incorporate strategies into rural utility management;
  • Support of water system partnerships through community education and utility information on the array of tools available to support partnerships that can increase sustainability;
  • Support of the water sector workforce, in part by continuing to raise awareness of rural water sector careers through promotional initiatives; and
  • Support compliances with drinking water and clean water regulations, which includes making rural systems a funding priority.

In April of the same year, two lawmakers on the Senate Environmental and Public Works (EPW) Committee released two pieces of draft legislation that would authorize the investment of $19.5 billion in the nation’s water infrastructure.

The proposed legislation included America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2020 (AWIA 2020) and the Drinking Water Infrastructure Act of 2020.

Drafted by Environmental and Public Works Committee Chairman John Barrasso, R-Wyoming, and Senator Tom Carper, D-Delaware, the legislative pair aims to provide the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with funding for flood protection, ecological restoration and increased water storage. The draft legislation also aimed to aid the EPA with wastewater treatments, better drinking water and will more than double the last approved water package.

To break each drafted bill down individually, the AWIA 2020 legislation planned to authorize $17 billion for infrastructure projects and sets a two-year goal for the Corps to complete various feasibility studies for potential projects.

Specifically, $4.3 billion in federal funds would be used for 20 Corps projects. Most notably, projects receiving the funds include a $909 million flood protection program in Norfolk, Virginia and a $794 million federal share for a $983.7 million flood protection plan for multiple areas along the Atlantic shore of Long Island, New York.

Additionally, the AWIA 2020 offered conditional funding amounting to $7.5 billion, which would be used over three years for the EPA’s CWSRFs and $2.5 billion for DWSRFs. However, because the funding was conditional, budgetary scoring could require offsetting revenue increases.

The draft of the Drinking Water Infrastructure Act would use the remaining $2.5 billion to reauthorize the Safe Drinking Water Act emergency fund and would authorize $300 million in grants to help with cancer-linked chemical contaminations.

   

Tagged categories: Clean Water Act; Environmental Protection; Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); Funding; Government; Grants; Infrastructure; Infrastructure; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Water/Wastewater

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