US EPA announces $5.5 billion for water infrastructure projects

The agency says that the funding is designed to ‘leverage public and private investments’ to keep drinking water contaminant-free and upgrade ageing water infrastructure.

4 April, the EPA announced that it has made up to $5.5 billion (over €4.4 billion) in loans available to water infrastructure projects. This funding, which the agency says could accelerate about $11 billion (€8.9 billion) in infrastructure investment across the US, is implemented through the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) federal loan and guarantee programme.

Introduced in 2014, the WIFIA programme supplies what the EPA describes as long-term, low-cost supplemental loans to ‘regionally and nationally significant projects’. According to the agency, the scheme received $63 million in a 2018 appropriations bill, doubling annual funding from what was available in 2017.

Due to the relatively low risk of the loans, the programme’s funding can be leveraged into a far greater amount of credit assistance. The American Water Works Association (which describes itself as the ‘chief architect’ of WIFIA) noted in a statement praising the budget increase that: “WIFIA leverages federal dollars so that for every dollar Congress appropriates, 50 to 60 dollars are expected to be loaned out.”

Eligible borrowers include corporations, joint ventures, and local and federal government bodies. Funding from the programme is used for initiatives like water and wastewater treatment projects, and drought management schemes. Letters of interest requesting credit under WAFIA are due 6 July 2018.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said in a statement that the funding will create new investments to repair the US’ ‘crumbling’ water infrastructure: “EPA will play a key role in the President’s infrastructure efforts by incentivising states, municipalities, and public-private partnerships to protect public health, fix local infrastructure problems, create jobs, and provide clean water to communities.”

See the EPA’s website for more information about the WAFIA programme.

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