Support for Wide Range of Projects in Large, Small Communities
In an address during a Water Week, US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael S. Regan announced new funding is being made available under the agency’s Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program and state infrastructure financing authority WIFIA (SWIFIA) program. Monies will go toward critical water infrastructure projects in both large and small communities.
Investing in infrastructure
There are more than 2.2 million miles of underground pipes that make up America’s drinking water infrastructure system. As the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) points out, “unfortunately, the system is aging and underfunded. There is a water main break every two minutes, and an estimated 6 billion gallons of treated water lost each day in the U.S., enough to fill over 9,000 swimming pools.” This is one of the many reasons water infrastructure earns a C- on the ASCE Report Card.
Water for drinking, washing clothes, flushing the toilet, and bathing has long been taken for granted and this critical infrastructure needs our full attention. Funding for repairs and replacement has not kept pace with the growing need to address aging systems. The WIFIA and SWIFIA programs provide funds to accelerate investment in water infrastructure through innovative and flexible financing of long-term, low-cost supplemental loans.
A recent EPA press release notes the “WIFIA loan program has become one of the most effective tools used to upgrade our nation’s infrastructure. To date, EPA’s 49 WIFIA loans are providing over $9.3 billion in credit assistance to help finance nearly $20 billion for water infrastructure while creating approximately 49,000 jobs and saving ratepayers over $4 billion.”
The new funds will support water infrastructure projects and prioritizes five areas:
- Supporting economically-stressed communities.
- Protecting water infrastructure against the impacts of climate change.
- Reducing exposure to lead and addressing emerging contaminants.
- Updating aging infrastructure.
- Implementing new or innovative approaches including cybersecurity and green infrastructure.
Part of the plan
“EPA’s $6.5 billion in water infrastructure funding will provide more than $13 billion in water infrastructure projects while creating more than 40,000 jobs,” Regan said during his announcement. He went on to explain that it “illustrates the multiple benefits of investing in water infrastructure—better public health and environmental protection, job creation, and economic development. These benefits would be taken to new heights under President Biden’s American Jobs Plan.”
Funding will go to a wide range of projects in addition to the existing active pipeline of WIFIA projects (76 projects in 25 states), including:
- Drinking water treatment and distribution projects.
- Wastewater conveyance and treatment projects.
- Nonpoint source pollution management program.
- Management, reduction, treatment, or recapture of stormwater.
- National estuary program projects.
- Enhanced energy efficiency projects at drinking water and wastewater facilities.
- Desalination, aquifer recharge, alternative water supply, and water recycling projects.
- Drought prevention, reduction, or mitigation projects.