Water Leaders join WaterWorld for infrastructure conversation

Dec. 17, 2021
WaterWorld's latest webinar broke down the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill and detailed the various allocated funds that utilities could soon receive.

On December 17, members of several water, wastewater, and stormwater organizations joined WaterWorld for a webinar outlining new infrastructure funding and requirements, following the passage of the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act (IIJA) and advancement of the Build Back Better Act (BBB).

The webinar, titled “The Bipartian Infrastructure Bill — What Water/Wastewater Utilities Need to Know,” was organized by WaterWorld magazine and sponsored by Bentley Systems. The webinar hosted four speakers, each representing key leaders in the water sector:

  • Tommy Holmes, Legislative Director of the American Water Works Association (AWWA)
  • Kristina Surfus, Managing Director of Government Affairs with the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA)
  • Steve Dye, Legislative Director for the Water Environment Federation (WEF)
  • and Vanessa M. Leiby, Executive Director of the Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association (WWEMA)

Each speaker covered their organization’s most relevant funding pools, the legislative status of these pools, and how utilities can apply for the several pools.

AWWA's Holmes covered IIJA’s drinking water appropriations, cybersecurity initiatives, and EPA’s first announced State Revolving Fund (SRF) allotments.

The bill has approved several billions of dollars annually, from 2022 through 2026, for a variety of programs. Drinking Water SRFs will see $15 billion for the full period towards the removal of lead service lines, and $11.7 billion for the SRF generally. $50 million was also approved for WIFIA loans annually, and borrowers will now only need one credit rating to apply.

NACWA's Surfus broke down the funds for Clean Water SRFs: what funds have been fully appropriated, what funds were authorized for future spending, and what utilities can expect for the future.

The funds already appropriated include $11.7 billion for the Clean Water SRF over five years, and $1 billion for emerging contaminants/PFAS in wastewater over five years. For emerging contaminants, the appropriation is part of a new specific SRF pot, and composed of 100% grant funds: no state match will be required.

The act also builds on other water infrastructure investment opportunities from within the last year — the December 2020 Consolidated Appropriations Act and the March 2021 American Rescue Plan Act. With any luck, water infrastructure could see another investment with BBB in the near future.

WEF's Dye talked through how IIJA and BBB will affect stormwater management, with extended funding for a wide number of programs: from SRFs and Sewer Overflow & Stormwater Reuse Municipal Grants, to Stormwater Centers of Excellence and Clean Watershed Needs Surveys.

While quite a lot of funding will be available for the next few years, many of the programs tied to stormwater management will need annual appropriations.

“There are still a lot of things that need to go through the appropriations process,” said Dye. “It’s really important that stakeholders, like you all, continue to push for appropriations going forward.”

The event’s final speaker, Leiby of WWEMA, covered IIJA’s new series of Buy America requirements. The new requirements will be massively expanded for the water sector.

“The new Buy America requirements apply to all federal agencies and sectors,” said Leiby, “including drinking water and wastewater, and for both loans and grants. All processes, from melting to coating [for iron and steel], must be done in the U.S. It can’t leave the country and come back. In addition, the new requirements apply to all manufactured goods and an expanded list of construction materials, including PVC."

Borrowers will need to be under full compliance with the new requirements within 6 months of enactment (May 15, 2022). Borrowers requesting waivers may also need to navigate a new waiver process.

The presentations were then followed by an in-depth question-and-answer session, where attendees had the chance to hear clarifications or to ask how their organization's unique circumstances might affect funding.

For more information, or to view the webcast on demand, click here

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