On April 4, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the availability of new funding through the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program. The WIFIA program is a federal loan and guarantee program within EPA designed to accelerate investment in the nation’s water infrastructure by providing long-term, low-cost supplemental loans for regionally and nationally significant projects, including many county water infrastructure projects. The new funding announcement could provide up to $5.5 billion in loans and leverage over $11 billion for water infrastructure projects. Prospective borrowers seeking WIFIA credit assistance must submit a letter of interest (LOI) and all required documents by July 6, 2018 via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Applicants may also upload the required documents directly to EPA’s SharePoint site. Access to this site must be requested before noon on July 3, 2018 by emailing email@example.com.
The funding announcement lists two major priorities for this round of funding: providing clean and safe drinking water and reducing lead exposure; and repairing, rehabilitating and replacing aging infrastructure and conveyance systems. Generally, WIFIA credit assistance can be used for a wide range of projects including drinking water treatment and distribution; wastewater conveyance and treatment; enhanced energy efficiency at drinking water and wastewater facilities; desalination; water recycling; and drought prevention or mitigation projects, many of which involve county owned and maintained water infrastructure.
The WIFIA program received $63 million in funding in the FY 2018 omnibus appropriations package, more than doubling the program’s overall funding from 2017, which should provide for increased investment in local water infrastructure in 2018. In 2017, EPA invited 12 projects across nine states to apply for WIFIA loans totaling over $2 billion.
Counties play an essential role in building and maintaining America’s water infrastructure and invest more than $120 billion overall in infrastructure per year. In addition, more than 70 percent of counties invest in storm sewer systems. Counties are regularly addressing water infrastructure needs, especially when preparing and responding to flooding threats and other water challenges and hazards, and call on the federal government to provide reliable, long-term and substantially increased investment in water infrastructure and protection of water resources. As Director of EPA’s Office of Wastewater Management Dr. Andrew Sawyers stated in the announcement, “An investment in water infrastructure is an investment in our communities. The WIFIA program helps improve water quality and protect public health while supporting the local economy.”
Typically, the WIFIA program helps finance larger water infrastructure projects – primarily those with an anticipated cost of $20 million or more. However, recognizing the need for investment in both large and small communities, Congress stipulated 15 percent of WIFIA funds be set aside each year for small communities serving fewer than 25,000 residents. Such projects have a lower cost threshold for eligibility, only requiring an anticipated cost of $5 million or more.
To learn more about how to submit a letter of interest (LOI) for the current round of WIFIA funding, and for instructions as to what should be included in the LOI, please click here.