WaterNow Alliance has expanded our geographic range of water infrastructure funding technical assistance by joining the Water, Wastewater, and Stormwater Assistance Program! In collaboration with the Southwest Environmental Finance Center (SW EFC) and team of partners, WaterNow is helping communities in EPA Region 6 (New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana) apply for and access existing State Revolving Fund (SRF) money, as well as additional Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) funding, for drinking water, stormwater and wastewater infrastructure projects.
It is not surprising that there are more water infrastructure needs than there are dollars to pay for the needs, but many funds (including SRF) are limited by demand rather than funds. A recent project conducted by the Water Research Foundation and SW EFC explored why there are a lack of funding applications for water infrastructure projects. Some of the reasons included not being aware of the options, being too overwhelmed to begin the process, and not having adequate staffing capacity to pursue applications.
The unprecedented level of funding available under BIL makes it a necessity to change this dynamic in order to help communities actually access funding to resolve their drinking water, stormwater and wastewater needs. In order to be successful, this project employs a unique strategy of: 1) engaging several partners (see below), and 2) proposing the innovative Funding Navigator concept that was first developed by the SW EFC. Following the Funding Navigator concept, the project team serves as a guide to water systems to answer questions, share advice, and connect them to other necessary resources.
The goal of The Water, Wastewater and Stormwater Assistance Program is to help EPA and the states administer the existing SRF funds, as well as additional BIL money, in a timely fashion while ensuring that the needs of disadvantaged communities of all types throughout Region 6 are well-served. The team of partners bring multiple objectives to this work, including:
- Focus on and engage small, under-resourced, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of color), isolated, Tribal, and traditionally underserved, and rural and urban disadvantaged communities in the program.
- Provide the necessary resources, expertise, assistance, guidance and support to allow communities to access the BIL money or other infrastructure assistance.
- Engage with communities to ensure that projects fit community values and needs (“shovel-worthy” rather than just “shovel-ready” projects).
- Ensure projects can be operated, maintained, and funded over the long-term.
- Work closely with state regulatory and funding agencies to ensure proposed projects are likely to be accepted by the funding agency.
- Share approaches being used across the region, especially positive lessons learned and successful projects.
Drinking water systems, wastewater systems, stormwater systems, and Tribal systems in EPA Region 6 who are facing problems that could result in an infrastructure funding application are eligible to participate in the program. The program can assist communities in the following areas:
- Evaluating system needs: initial assessments, studies, plan development and coordination, asset management, and assistance seeking funding for preliminary studies and plans.
- Project development: alternative analysis, selecting engineers, lead service line inventories, environmental reviews, and applying for funding for preliminary engineering reports.
- Technical assistance and capacity building: decision maker and board education, building water system partnerships, trainings, and webinars.
- Finance and funding: rates and revenue analysis, fiscal analysis, financial planning, identification of funding options, and application support.
- Construction management: bid support, change order reviews, project inspection (limited services), and federal requirement assistance, such as Davis Bacon and domestic preference.
- Creating additional tools and resources based on the needs of systems.
If you are a water system in EPA Region 6 interested in our support, please fill out this intake form and our team will be in touch soon. If you know of a water system in EPA Region 6 that might be a good fit for this program, please reach out to joni palmer ([email protected]) or Hayley Hajic ([email protected]).
If you are not located in Region 6 but are in need of water infrastructure funding support, please see this list of Regional Environmental Finance Centers.