On January 10, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the availability of approximately $1 billion in credit assistance for water infrastructure projects under the new Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program.
EPA’s WIFIA program will provide long-term, low-cost credit assistance in the form of direct loans and loan guarantees to creditworthy water projects. WIFIA provides another option for financing large infrastructure projects – generally at least $20 million – in addition to the State Revolving Funds and bond market.
WIFIA is available to state, local, and tribal governments; private entities; partnerships; and State Revolving Fund programs. EPA estimates that funds appropriated to the WIFIA program can be leveraged at a ratio greater than 50 to one, which means the $17 million program budget could allow EPA to make approximately $1 billion in loans and stimulate about $2 billion in total infrastructure investment.
“The launch of the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act program marks a huge step forward for modernizing our nation’s aging water infrastructure,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “WIFIA gives us a new opportunity to provide billions of dollars in low-interest loans to communities to build large infrastructure projects, significantly accelerating investments that benefit our nation’s public health and water security for generations to come.”
Some of the projects that WIFIA enables EPA to provide assistance for include:
- drinking water treatment and distribution projects
- wastewater conveyance and treatment projects
- enhanced energy efficiency projects at drinking water and wastewater facilities
- desalination, aquifer recharge, alternative water supply, and water recycling projects
- drought prevention, reduction, or mitigation projects
EPA will evaluate projects using criteria such as the extent to which the project is nationally or regionally significant, helps maintain or protect public health or the environment, protects against extreme weather, and serves regions with significant water resource challenges. EPA will make selections on a competitive basis.
EPA estimates that the U.S. needs about $660 billion in investments for drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure over the next 20 years.
Photo of leaking water infrastructure via The Weston Mercury.