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H.R.3684: Rejuvenating the Water Infrastructure
November 29, 2021 | Robert Bergman
For the ninth straight year, respondents to the Annual American Water Works Association (AWWA) member survey have ranked “Renewing and replacing aging water and wastewater infrastructure” and “Obtaining financing for capital improvements to improve the infrastructure” as their top two concerns. Today, with this month’s passage of the American Infrastructure and Jobs Act – H.R.3684, at least some of their wishes may be granted. The bill allocates $55 billion of the $1.2 trillion to water projects, much of it in direct grants. Water and wastewater plants may also benefit from other provisions designated for cyber security.
The bill’s key investments for the water sector include:
- $11.7 billion each for both the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) and the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) for a total of $23.5 billion in new federal investment, half of which is required to be in the form of grants or 100% principal loan forgiveness. The CWSRF and DWSRF, the primary federal funding mechanisms for water infrastructure, are federal-state partnerships that provide communities with low-cost financing to make water system upgrades.
- $20 billion in additional funding to the State Revolving Funds to address specific water concerns, including $15 billion for activities related to the identification and replacement of lead service lines and $5 billion to address emerging contaminants such as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
- The creation of the Water Infrastructure Resiliency and Sustainability Program authorized at $125 million is a new program that will award grants to publicly-owned wastewater treatment plants to increase resilience against natural hazards. It also reauthorizes existing programs including the Sewer Overflow and Stormwater Reuse Municipal Grant Program and the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan program.
- Provisions that would require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and CISA to identify public water systems that, if degraded or rendered inoperable due to a cyber-attack, would lead to significant impacts on the health and safety of the public.
- A provision also directs the EPA Administrator to work with the CISA Director to develop a Technical Cyber security Support Plan to ensure both agencies are prioritizing their resources to offer cyber security support to water systems across the country. It also sets timelines for making specific services, such as penetration testing, site vulnerability assessments, and risk assessments, available to local governments.
Water & Wastes Digest magazine provides a breakdown on funding rules and requirements across all sectors of the industry.
Notably, this bill contains roughly half the amount initially proposed for water infrastructure by this Administration. It does, however, build on the $12 Billion in Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) that was passed in May of 2021 to provide long-term, low-cost supplemental loans for regionally and nationally significant projects.
And still on the table for the Senate this year is water-related funding in H.R.5376, the $1.75 trillion Build Back Better bill which includes nearly $10 billion for EPA and USDA programs to help communities replace lead service lines and $225 million for new EPA grants to states and tribes to reduce the water rates and arrearages of low-income households. H.R.5376 was accepted by the House of Representatives this month and could be subject to additional changes in the Senate though.
For an example of one water plant that is transitioning its aging infrastructure to a modern, cyber-secure automation solution, read the Bedrock Automation case study “ICS Proxy Solution Helping Utility Transition Seamlessly to Modern Cyber Secure Automation.”