MWWA President Jeff Faulkner Shares Effects of ARPA and IIJA on Drinking Water Industry
A Message from MWWA President and Tighe & Bond Sr. Project Manager Jeffrey Faulkner in the organization’s March 2022 Newsletter, Edition No. 221
With the passage of the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) the drinking water industry is being infused with much-needed and long-awaited resources. While it will never seem like enough money to get everything we want to be accomplished, these Acts will allow public water systems the opportunity to improve and invest in their systems in a manner not seen in a generation. They will allow water systems the chance to leave an indelible mark for the benefit of the next generation.
ARPA was signed into federal law in March 2021. In Massachusetts, in excess of $3 billion is being distributed as direct payments to municipalities and counties in 2 installments (one was in 2021 and the second will be in 2022). These funds can be used for, among other things, water infrastructure. These direct payments are not loans, and while they have restricted uses, have minimal “strings attached” as compared to other funding programs. In addition, Massachusetts received approximately $5.3 billion in ARPA funds and is in the process of allocating these amongst various needs including drinking water. The Legislature authorized $100 million in spending on water/wastewater infrastructure in its first distribution; that money will be going through the State Revolving Fund (SRF). Money must be allocated by 2024 and spent by 2026.
IIJA was signed into federal law in November 2021. This Act brings to reality the hypothetical infrastructure investment program that has been discussed in Washington, DC for what seems like forever under the guise of “infrastructure week”. In its nearly $1.2 trillion in infrastructure funding, nearly $51 billion is dedicated to drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure over the next 5 years. The IIJA funds water infrastructure projects through a combination of increased funding for existing grant and loan programs and the development of new programs. The processes and procedures for disbursements are still being formalized. In Massachusetts, the SRF program is expected to receive a significant portion of the money, but funding may also be available through other programs. Most programs will be competitive and are likely to have requirements and rules that need to be met.
These funding opportunities, layered on top of existing annual funding, will allow water systems to complete water projects from source (PFAS treatment) to tap (lead service line replacement) and all that goes in between. It’s time to dust off those capital improvement plans, prioritize projects, engage local leaders, and educate residents. These steps will be needed to garner the support to pass appropriations and champion projects that will help clear out some of the backlogs of critical infrastructure projects that we have wanted for so long. These efforts to invest in water will strengthen our communities and pay it forward to the next generation.