Imagine a town called “Smallville.” Smallville, as you might guess, is small. The town’s water utility needs a new water tank, and they need it now. Like most systems across the US, Smallville’s system is aging and has significant infrastructure needs. Smallville generally knows the assets that are most critical and has assigned a level of risk to each. The numbers say that Smallville needed to replace the tank a few years ago, and failure is imminent. The tank will cost Smallville $400,000.
So, what does Smallville do? The utility does not have a lot of cash on hand and has historically relied on grants to supplement the funding package for infrastructure replacement. The customers are just like those across the county–sensitive to rate increases. Unfortunately, Smallville has felt the reduction in available grant funding and worries that even if the utility does get a grant for the tank that the asset could fail during the “waiting” period between applying for funds and receiving them. Continue reading
The State Revolving Fund (SRF) programs have become a well-known financing option for many water and wastewater infrastructure projects across the country. This is mainly due to the longevity of the clean water (CWSRF) and drinking water (DWSRF) programs and the appealing financing options, such as low-interest rates, offered in each state. However, many communities across the country still struggle to obtain this federal money, despite the borrowing incentives, due to capacity at the community level. In 2014, changes in the Clean Water Act permanently added an affordability section to the CWSRF program. On the DWSRF program side, the American Recovery Act of 2009 required states to offer additional forms of subsidization to applicants, including principal forgiveness. This brings up the question: What metrics are states using—or should consider using—to determine principal forgiveness eligibility for low-income communities? Continue reading
On Friday, March 23, President Trump signed a $1.3 trillion FY 2018 spending bill that will fund the federal government through September 30. This budget funds several environmental infrastructure programs that help communities pay for crucial services such as water and wastewater. How did those infrastructure programs fare in the budget?
Figure 1 Cover of “WRRDA Highlights” Publication (Source: http://transportation.house.gov/wrrda/)
As the federal government considered introducing a new program, the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Authority (WIFIA), for funding water infrastructure projects, some opponents saw the new program as unnecessary. The protest was not centered on a lack of need of financing for water infrastructure. Indeed, the estimated range of need from $122 billion to $3.6 trillion is large enough to warrant action whether you subscribe to the lower end or the higher end of the range! Instead, some saw the existing State Revolving Fund (SRF) program as the most viable vehicle for delivering more financing. Why create a new program when one already exists? At the same time, critics of the existing SRF program pointed to the fact that it was not broad and flexible enough, and had not been significantly updated since 1987. In a surprising turn of events, a bipartisan team of lawmakers addressed both sets of concern in one fell swoop. Continue reading