After much debate, delay, compromise, and, finally, voting, the Infrastructure, Investment, and Jobs Act (IIJA or the Act) was finally passed. This $1.2 trillion Act comes perhaps not a moment too soon. For years organizations like ASCE have graded our infrastructure at a ‘D’ and have estimated more than $4.5 trillion in funding to improve that grade for our bridges, roads, ports, water systems, and much more. While the $1.2 trillion Act seems very promising, we know that it can’t fix all our infrastructure problems overnight and so the greater question is how can engineers, modelers, consultants, and utilities make the most with this new funding and potential resources. This article aims to answer some basic questions about the Act, investigate the water infrastructure provisions of the Act specifically, and ultimately help today’s problem solvers make the most of these resources.
Q: What is the Infrastructure, Investment, and Jobs Act and how is it going to impact the development and planning of water infrastructure?
A: The IIJA follows the earlier introduced Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act of 2021 to form the basis of its funding provisions. About half of the $1.2 trillion is additional, unplanned spending directly for infrastructures such as transportation, broadband, electric, and water services. This represents the most significant single federal investment ever in our nation’s infrastructure. Specifically for water services, $55 billion is the amount of new funds set aside to be allocated toward water infrastructure. Much of this funding is spread out evenly from 2022 through 2026, so while the Act does not create an immediate impact on short-term development and planning, utilities and consultants should begin investigating steps and processes to learn how to access these new resources.
Q: What are the key issues the Act is going to address for the water sector?
A: Breaking down the $55 billion in water investments, it becomes clear that specific issues are being prioritized at the national level. Specific issues highlighted in the White House press release, and backed up with funding in the Act, include:
Replacement of Lead Pipe Services: Approximately 10 million American households and 400,000 schools and childcare centers lack safe drinking water in part due to likely lead exposure. These numbers may be even higher for the many utilities which may not even be aware of all the lead service lines in their network. Almost 30% of the water sector funding in the bill is dedicated to lead service line location and replacement.
The 2014-2019 Flint water crisis was a wake-up call heard nationwide. While most utilities have been making steady progress towards lead replacement ever since, these additional funds give utilities no excuse to delay addressing this critical infrastructure problem as quickly as possible.
Improving Water Quality: While lead pipes are a critical problem, it is not the only water quality issue America faces. Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFAs are an emerging group of difficult-to-treat chemicals addressed in the Act. These chemicals and many others found in everyday household products are being detected at much higher than acceptable levels in wells and water sources across the country. More research funding will help uncover the true scope of this problem as well as prevent damage from future emerging contaminants.
Storm Flood Systems: Climate change isn’t going anywhere and, therefore, neither will severe weather systems and storm flooding. Now more than ever, there will be a need to improve the management of stormwater flood systems and be ahead of it.
“Last year alone, the United States faced 22 extreme weather and climate-related disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion each – a cumulative price tag of nearly $100 billion.” 1- The White House Briefing Room
The IIJA will administer crucial and significant funding needed to rebuild the water infrastructure systems in the areas and communities most vulnerable to escalating weather storms and devastating floods.
Disadvantaged and At-Risk Communities: Within each of these water-related issues addressed within the Act, matters of equity and serving those most at risk are highlighted. Specific funds within the $55 billion are allocated directly to Tribal Nations, while lead pipe replacement and PFAs’ funds have language in place for state revolving funds to prioritize disadvantaged communities. Ideally, by combining the water funds with roads, broadband, electric, and other infrastructure services, utilities can drive entire ‘right-of-way’ improvements to dramatically enhance not just physical infrastructure but the livelihoods of many communities and neighborhoods. If you would like to learn more on this matter, read the article Lifting a Community, a Holistic Approach by David Totman, VP of Asset Management, here at Innovyze.
Q: How will the funds be allocated and what are some of the best ways to access funding for your organization?
A: In general, the $55 billion total for water is allocated as follows:
- $11.7 billion for Drinking Water State Revolving Funds over 5 years
- $11.7 billion for Clean Water State Revolving Funds over 5 years
- $15 billion for Drinking Water State Revolving Funds specifically set aside for lead service line replacement
- $4 billion to address PFAs/PFOAs allocated to Drinking Water State Revolving Funds
- $1 billion to address other emerging contaminants in the Clean Water State Revolving Funds
- $5 billion in grants offered by the EPA under the Safe Drinking Water Act for small and disadvantaged communities affected by PFAs
- ~$6.6 billion to other programs such as Tribal water and sanitation infrastructure, Western water resilience, and sewer overflow and stormwater reuse programs
With this allocation spread, it becomes clear that the best way for utilities and consultants to access these funds is either via the EPA itself (~$5+ billion) or, more likely, through State Revolving Funds (~$43.4 billion). Established in 1996, these State Revolving Funds traditionally offer low-interest loans for kickstarting necessary water projects, but nearly half of the $43.4 billion allocated by the Act has been set aside for grants. Simply by looking at the percentages, these funds are taking on greater importance and are the preferred water infrastructure funding vehicle for the Biden administration.
Q: I’ve never heard of these Drinking & Clean Water State Revolving Funds. How can I learn more and what does each state’s allocation look like?
A: These revolving funds may be underutilized or stretched thin, depending on the state. For example, in California’s 2019-2020 state fiscal year, their Drinking Water State Revolving Fund provided ~$147.4 million in loans and grants while they had ~$2 billion in applications the next fiscal year. Alternatively, some states may have underutilized revolving funds due to lack of awareness; more than one state website gives a 404 error even when trying to find their application! In general, the best way to learn about these state revolving funds, before the additional IIJA funds are officially delivered to the states halfway through 2022, is via the federal EPA website. There are separate websites for the Drinking Water & Clean Water State Revolving Funds and links to each state’s website.
Q: How does this relate to Innovyze solutions and how can we help you?
A: A lot! No matter what state or agency you might apply for additional funding through, Innovyze likely has a tool to help better justify and inform your application and implement your solution once funding is received. While all the State Revolving Fund applications may be slightly different, all of them contain language which requires careful CIP budgeting and prioritization of disadvantaged communities (InfoAsset Planner), hydraulic analysis (InfoWater Pro/InfoWorks ICM), and consideration of green infrastructure and flooding events (InfoDrainage). Innovyze tools have been used for decades to justify funding at the municipal and state levels and now at the federal level. See the links below to learn more about different Innovyze solutions.
In addition, see the final link to read actual text from the Infrastructure, Investment, and Jobs Act. It’s your $1.2 trillion after all; you deserve to see exactly where it’s headed!
Asset deterioration is hard to stay ahead of – especially if your network is complex. InfoAsset Planner gives you a renewal and replacement roadmap, so you can allocate budget to prioritized projects.
InfoDrainage creates detailed designs of both traditional and sustainable drainage, plus customizable reports for local regulatory compliance.
Protect the environment and be prepared for anything, with fully integrated 1D/2D simulations to model elements of catchment, quickly, accurately, and collaboratively.
InfoWater Pro hydraulic models bridge the gap between network modeling and ArcGIS, ensuring you get sound, cost-effective engineering solutions for designing, planning, and operating your systems.
Click here to read: Documentation of the Actual Bill
If you’re interested in continuing to explore the opportunities and evolving parts of the new Infrastructure Act, I welcome you to join me in this conversation. Please visit us: Contact Us.
- Fact Sheet: The Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal
- Drinking Water State Revolving Fund
- Clean Water State Revolving Fund
- H.R. 3684 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act