EPA launches innovative water finance center as part of White House investment initiative
The Environmental Protection Agency has launched the Water Infrastructure and Resiliency Finance Center as part of the White House Build America Investment Initiative to help communities across the country improve their wastewater, drinking water and stormwater systems.
WASHINGTON, DC, Jan. 16, 2015 -- Today, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched the Water Infrastructure and Resiliency Finance Center (WIRFC) to help a number of communities across the country improve their wastewater, drinking water and stormwater systems, particularly through innovative financing and by building resilience to climate change.
WIRFC is part of the White House Build America Investment Initiative -- a government-wide effort launched by the Obama Administration in July, 2014, to increase infrastructure investment and promote economic growth in drinking water and sewer systems, as well as in ports, roads, bridges, broadband networks, and other projects, by creating opportunities for state and local governments and the private sector to collaborate, expand public-private partnerships (PPPs) and increase the use of federal credit programs.
WIRFC was announced during an event today at the Anacostia River Tunnel Project Site in Washington, D.C., a project that is expected to reduce the city's sewer overflows into the Anacostia River by 98 percent (see "DC Water kicks off massive Blue Plains Tunnel project"). Vice President Joe Biden, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack all came together to tour the premises and stress the importance of these critical investments.
"Infrastructure is central to the President's plan to build on the progress the U.S. economy is making by creating jobs and expanding opportunity for all Americans," said McCarthy. "By modernizing the nation's infrastructure, we can protect our drinking water sources and enhance resilience to the impacts of climate change by avoiding financial and water supply losses from leaking pipes and reducing pollution from sewer overflows and wastewater discharges."
The construction project in Anacostia is an example of the benefits of investment in water management. However, the current level of infrastructure investment in the U.S. is far too low, and many worthwhile projects go unfunded. The system of water pipes that distribute drinking water to homes and businesses, for example, is rapidly aging, and utilities will have to spend three times as much on pipe replacement in the next 15 years as the current system continues to decline.
Accordingly, to help address more than $600 billion in needs for drinking water and wastewater management over the next 20 years, WIRFC will work closely with municipal and state governments, utilities and private sector partners to use federal grants to attract more private capital into projects and promote models of public-private collaboration that can address the real needs of cities and towns to provide safe water, rebuild sewer systems and keep streams and rivers clean.
Some key services of WIRFC will include:
- Exploring innovative financial tools, PPPs and non-traditional finance concepts to better leverage federal funding programs. Further, it will build on EPA's highly successful State Revolving Fund and other programs and its federal partners.
- Discovering ways to increase financing of climate-resilient water infrastructure projects that integrate water efficiency, energy efficiency, water reuse, and green infrastructure.
- Supporting communities to develop sustainable sources of funding, particularly for stormwater activities
- Building upon existing work to support small community water systems to build technical, managerial and financial capacities through collaboration with the USDA
- Closely coordinating with the EPA-supported Environmental Finance Centers and consult with the Agency's Environmental Finance Advisory Board
In addition to WIRFC, the Administration is announcing the Rural Opportunity Investment Initiative at the USDA, which will facilitate and catalyze rural investment opportunities for the public and private sectors. The Initiative will focus on opportunities to leverage private sector financing against the more than $30 billion in existing USDA programs and resources to provide funding to vital rural infrastructure projects, including water and wastewater systems, energy-efficiency improvements, broadband networks, and other rural infrastructure needs.
The Administration is also proposing the creation of an innovative new municipal bond, Qualified Public Infrastructure Bond (QPIB). Today, PPPs that combine public ownership with private sector management and operations expertise cannot take advantage of the benefits of municipal bonds. QPIBs will extend the benefits of municipal bonds to PPPs like those involving long-term leasing and management contracts, lowering the cost of borrowing and attracting new capital.