Law seeds up to $1 billion in EPA-guided water, wastewater infrastructure loans

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced the availability of up to $1 billion under the new Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program, aimed at providing credit-worthy water supply and wastewater projects long-term, low-cost assistance through direct loans and loan guarantees.

WIFIA will support new wastewater treatment plant construction as a companion to State Revolving Funds and bond markets. PHOTO: VersaFlex Inc.

WIFIA brings another financing option for large infrastructure projects, typically $20 million and up, in addition to State Revolving Funds and the bond market. The funding is available to state, local and tribal governments; private entities or partnerships; and, State Revolving Fund programs. EPA estimates that WIFIA-appropriated funds can be leveraged at a ratio greater than 50 to 1, meaning the $17 million program budget could allow agency 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 outgoing 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.”

WIFIA enables EPA to provide assistance for such projects as drinking water treatment and distribution; wastewater conveyance and treatment; drinking water or wastewater facility energy efficiency upgrades; and, alternative water supply or water recycling. The agency will evaluate loan candidates using criteria such as the extent to which a 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.