Funding the Future of Water and Wastewater Infrastructure

During his campaign and even in his Inauguration Address, Donald Trump has spoken frequently about the importance of improving the nation’s infrastructure - roads, bridges, airports, and yes, even water and wastewater.

During his campaign and even in his Inauguration Address, Donald Trump has spoken frequently about the importance of improving the nation’s infrastructure - roads, bridges, airports, and yes, even water and wastewater. As I write this, senior Senate democrats led by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) have unveiled a plan that they believe will accomplish just that.

The plan, which they are calling a “blueprint for rebuilding America’s infrastructure,” outlines an ambitious, 10-year, $1 trillion proposal that aims not only to update and repair critical infrastructure but create 15 million jobs in the process. Water and wastewater would get $110 billion under the plan.

It’s not entirely clear where the money would come from but it seems that closing tax loopholes would play a major role in freeing up much of the cash.

Prior to the election, Mr. Trump’s campaign released its own $1 trillion infrastructure plan, one that largely focused on private investment and public-private partnerships to fund improvements. Additional details on that plan are expected later in the spring.

In the meantime, our infrastructure continues to deteriorate unabated. (Today, according to watermainbreakclock.com, there have already been 510 pipe breaks in the U.S...and it’s only lunchtime.) Experts agree that funding will never come from one single source, but rather a wide variety of outlets: federal, state, public, and private.

In that vein, there is some good news to share. Earlier this month, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that, at long last, the WIFIA program is ready to start making loans. As you probably know, WIFIA - the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act - was first introduced in 2012 and in 2014 was included in the Water Resources Development Act, but it never got the funds it needed to actually start making loans. With the passage of the omnibus funding bill in December, WIFIA got the seed money it needed.

WIFIA is designed to complement existing state revolving loan fund programs by making low-interest federal loans available for large water and wastewater infrastructure projects. The EPA is the administer of the program and the agency has about $17 million with which to seed loans - an amount that could translate into about $1 billion in funding for large (over $20 million) water and wastewater infrastructure projects. Awards are competitive and projects will be accepted based on certain criteria such as national or regional significance.

The EPA is currently accepting Letters of Intent through April 10. If there are remaining funds, a second round will begin on August 1.

If you are considering a large water or wastewater infrastructure project and are in need of assistance, please visit epa.gov/wifia for additional information, including the WIFIA program handbook and application materials.

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