$240M Water Infrastructure Funding Announced

MONDAY, MAY 16, 2022

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced a $240.4 million investment from the bipartisan infrastructure law for significant repairs on canal linings, dam spillways and water pipeline replacements. According to the press release, the program will be facilitated through the Bureau of Reclamation.

“President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is making a historic investment in drought resilience and water infrastructure,” said Secretary Deb Haaland. “As western communities face growing challenges accessing water in the wake of record drought, these investments in our aging water infrastructure will safeguard community water supplies and revitalize water delivery systems.”

Projects selected for funding are reportedly found in all the major river basins and regions where the Bureau operates. Of these 46 projects, which span across 11 states, plans include conducting canal repairs in Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada and Wyoming; dam spillway repairs in Kansas; pipeline repairs in Utah; and investments in a pumping plant in Montana.

“The Bureau of Reclamation, in partnership with states and local water districts receiving municipal water and irrigation water from federally-owned projects, is responsible for much of the water infrastructure in the West,” said Acting Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner David Palumbo.

“These water systems work because of this federal to non-federal partnership, and this funding will help to complete necessary extraordinary maintenance keeping projects viable and partnerships strong."

The initial application period for these funds ended Jan. 31. The next application period for maintenance funding is expected for October this year. A full list of projects to be funded through the program can be found here.

In total, the infrastructure law provides $8.3 billion for the Bureau of Reclamation’s water infrastructure programs and $2.5 million for authorized water rights settlement projects. According to the DOI, funding includes:

  • $1 billion for WaterSMART Programs to support reuse projects, with $550 million for Title XVI (Water Reclamation and Reuse Projects), and $450 million for large-scale projects;
  • $1 billion for rural water projects to support projects that have been authorized by an Act of Congress before July 1, 2021, to meet the critical water supply needs of rural communities and Tribal nations;
  • $500 million for dam safety projects that will fund construction and maintain the operational capacity of 12 dams that require modification and minimize risk to the public;
  • $300 million to implement the Colorado River Basin Drought Contingency Plan, designed to protect the Colorado River system through voluntary reductions and increased conservation;
  • $250 million for Aquatic Ecosystems Restoration to invest in the health of fisheries, wildlife or aquatic habitat through habitat restoration and improved fish passage;
  • $250 million for desalination construction to support the development and supplement municipal and irrigation water supplies through the treatment of ocean or brackish water, providing a local supply and flexibility during water shortages;
  • $100 million for watershed health projects, including the design, implementation and monitoring of conservation outcomes of habitat restoration projects that improve watershed health; and
  • $100 million for small surface water and groundwater storage, which will invest in small water storage with a capacity of not less than 2,000 acre-feet and not more than 30,000 acre-feet and increases surface water or groundwater storage; or conveys water to or from surface water or groundwater storage. 

The DOI reports that this is one of the largest investments in drought resilience in the country’s history. The goal is reportedly to expand Reclamation’s ability to use existing program authorities to serve communities through infrastructure improvements that fundamentally impact their quality of life.

Recent Water Infrastructure Funds

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 memo fact sheet outlines the key priorities for the SRF grants:

  • Provide flexibility to meet local water needs;
  • Increase investment in disadvantaged communities;
  • Make rapid progress on lead service line replacement;
  • Address PFAS and emerging contaminants;
  • Support resilience and one water innovation;
  • Support American workers and renew the water workforce;
  • Cultivate domestic manufacturing;
  • Fully enforce civil rights; and
  • Refine state SRFs to build the pipeline of projects.

At the end of the March, the Biden-Harris Administration announced that it will be investing more than $2.7 billion in funding to 300 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects across the country, focused on strengthening ports and waterways. The announcement builds on the Administration providing $14 billion from the bipartisan infrastructure law to strengthen port and waterway supply changes and climate resilience.

Additionally, the Department of the Interior announced $1.7 billion infrastructure funding by the Bureau of Reclamation for rural infrastructure funding, investing specifically in water infrastructure to address drought across the west.

Both investments reportedly advance President Joe Biden’s Justice40 initiative, which ensures that 40% of certain federal investments, including in the areas of climate change and critical clean water and wastewater infrastructure, go to historically marginalized, underserved and overburdened communities.

The EPA has also recently awarded several Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loans after inviting 39 new projects to apply in December. 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 January, the EPA announced three WIFIA loans totaling $688 million to help advance water infrastructure projects, including to the City of Baltimore ($396 million), Union Sanitary District, California ($250 million), and the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District ($42 million).

In April, a utilities agency in San Bernardino County, California, was awarded a $120 million WIFIA loan. 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. 

The expansion project is expected to be completed by 2025.


Tagged categories: Department of the Interior; Funding; Government; Infrastructure; Infrastructure; Locks and dams; NA; non-potable water; North America; Pipeline; Pipelines; potable water; Program/Project Management; Rehabilitation/Repair; Water/Wastewater

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