EPA Issues Water Infrastructure Funding Memo
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently issued a memorandum for $43 billion in water infrastructure through the bipartisan infrastructure law to deliver clean water and replace lead pipes, especially in disadvantaged communities.
The memo, "Implementation of the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund Provisions of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law," was issued March 8 and will act as a guide for state, local and Tribal partners to work collaboratively. It also outlines requirements and recommendations for the Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving Funds (SRFs).
According to the EPA’s release, the majority of water infrastructure funding from the bipartisan infrastructure law will go towards this funding. The memo provides information on guidelines on how the EPA will award and administer these grants.
“The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s investment in clean water is nothing short of transformational,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox. “EPA and its state, local, and Tribal partners have an obligation to work together and maximize the impact of these funds in communities, especially disadvantaged communities.
“Water is essential, and this action will help ensure that every American can rely on safe drinking water and have access to wastewater management that protects health and the environment.”
EPA released our best practices report for administering the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund. With an influx of Bipartisan Infrastructure Law dollars, effective stewardship of drinking water funds is more important than ever.https://t.co/sZesZtSNAn pic.twitter.com/xkPWcYTshV— U.S. EPA Water (@EPAwater) April 13, 2022
The memo fact sheet outlines the key priorities for the SRF grants:
The memo also reportedly follows a letter sent from EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan to state governors in December last year, asking states and Tribes to maximize the impact of water funding from the law to address disproportionate environmental burdens in historically disadvantaged communities across the country. The EPA reports that the SRF programs and the agency can make progress towards Justice40, which aims to ensure that federal agencies deliver at least 40% of benefits from certain investments to disadvantaged communities.
A breakdown of 2022 SRF grants by state and program was updated last month. Funding from the bipartisan infrastructure law is broken down into five programs:
“Today’s action by the EPA is a great example of how the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will make a real difference in people’s lives by investing federal funds to create good-paying jobs and protect safe drinking water for our children and working families,” said Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
“Recently, I signed an executive directive readying Michigan to use the incoming resources as effectively as possible, and I am proud to see that our federal partners are also prioritizing investments in underserved communities. I look forward to working with the EPA, the Michigan legislature, and anyone who wants to partner with us to replace lead service lines statewide and ensure every parent can give their kid a glass of water with confidence knowing that it is safe.”
The agency states that it will be working with state co-regulators, Tribal partners and stakeholders on next steps. Additionally, it will provide training and technical assistance to support the development of intended use plans that identify priority projects for SRF funding, with a goal of expeditiously investing in the communities.
Lead Regulation Framework
At the beginning of the year, the EPA announced that it has begun developing new guidance and rules to regulatory framework on lead in drinking water. The agency plans to work with local, state and federal partners to achieve President Joe Biden’s goal to remove 100% of lead service lines as part of the Lead Pipe and Paint Action Plan.
Following the agency’s review of the Lead and Copper Rule Revisions (LCRR) under Executive Order 13990 and effective as of Dec. 16, the EPA will include a two-prong approach to improve the framework, including the immediate revisions and proposed new rule.
The new guidance for the LCRR includes support for developing lead service line inventories. The Safe Drinking Water Information System will be updated to support state and Tribal data management needs for these inventories, including best practices, case studies and templates.
The new proposed rule, the Lead and Copper Rule Improvements (LCRI), is being developed with the goal to fully replace all lead service lines as quickly as possible. According to the LCRR Review Fact Sheet, focus areas in the proposed rule include:
The EPA has allocated $2.9 billion of funding from the bipartisan infrastructure laws to states, Tribes and territories to remove lead service lines in 2022. This funding is the first installment of five that will total $15 billion to replace lead service lines. An additional $11.7 billion in general funding through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund will also reportedly be utilized for lead removal projects.
The agency expects to finalize the LCRI prior to Oct. 16, 2024, the initial compliance date for the LCRR.
The news came the month after the White House released its Lead Pipe and Paint Action Plan as part of the bipartisan infrastructure law, to deliver clean drinking water, replace lead pipes and remediate lead paint. The goal of the plan is to replace all lead pipes in the next decade.
Recent WIFIA Loan Funding
The federal loan and guarantee program was established by the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act of 2014 by the EPA. The goal of the program is to accelerate investment in the nation’s water infrastructure by providing long-term, low-cost supplemental credit assistance.
In December, the EPA announced that it had invited 39 new projects to apply for WIFIA loans. The EPA anticipates that, as funding becomes available, $6.7 billion in WIFIA loans will help finance over $15 billion in water infrastructure projects across 24 states. The invited projects will also reportedly help modernize water infrastructure for 25 million Americans and create up to 49,000 jobs.
Projects selected by the EPA to apply look at impacts of extreme weather events, the climate crisis, cybersecurity, green infrastructure and water reuse. Approximately $1.2 billion in loans are available to support infrastructure in historically underserved communities.
In a goal to diversify the program, the EPA selected three small communities, with populations of 25,000 or less, for WIFIA loans totaling nearly $62 million. The EPA reports that entities in Connecticut, Delaware and Hawaii are invited to apply for the first time.
A full list of invited projects can be found here.
In January, the EPA announced three WIFIA loans totaling $688 million to help advance water infrastructure projects.
“In my first year as EPA Administrator, I have visited communities from coast to coast. I’ve seen aging infrastructure that communities count on for clean and safe water. I’ve seen the harm that is caused when water systems fail, and I’ve seen the revitalization that comes with new investment,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan.
“Investing in water infrastructure strengthens the health of our communities while creating good paying jobs. This is a fundamental way that EPA is Building a Better America under President Biden’s leadership, and its why we’re so excited to put more than $50 billion to work in water infrastructure through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.”
In a speech to the U.S. Conference Mayors, Regan announced the three new WIFIA loans, awarded to:
According to the EPA, the agency closed 29 WIFIA loans in the first year of the Biden-Harris Administration, investing over $5 billion nationwide to protect public health and the environment while creating over 36,000 jobs.
Under the bipartisan infrastructure law, the EPA will receive $50 billion to improve the country’s drinking water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure, reportedly the largest investment in water ever made by the federal government. The Agency will also provide $7.4 billion in 2022 to the State Revolving Funds, with more over the next five years.
Last month, the EPA announced it awarded a $120 million WIFIA loan to a utilities agency in San Bernardino County, California. The Inland Empire Utilities Agency will use the loan to implement its Regional Wastewater System Improvements Program, supporting high-quality recycled water and access to reliable, long-term wastewater treatment.
The Regional Wastewater System Improvements Program will reportedly upgrade four wastewater treatment facilities to help to mitigate the impacts of climate change its service area, which is prone to droughts. The program is anticipated to ensure reliable access to wastewater treatment and recycled water and reducing reliance on imported water supplies.
Construction will include a new solids treatment facility, offsite pump stations and force mains, increased stream capacity, and replacement of the existing conveyance pipelines, headworks, odor control systems and aeration blowers, the EPA reports.
Overall, the project is expected to serve a population of 875,000 in Chino, California, and surrounding areas. The IEUA reportedly covers 242-square miles and distributes imported water, provides industrial and municipal wastewater collection and treatment services, and other related utility services.