New U.S. law provides drought relief, conservation funding The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA, or H.R. 5376 ) that U.S. President Biden signed into law this week provides significant funding for drought-relief measures in western states. Primarily, the bill provides $4 billion through September 2026 for grants, contracts or other forms of financial assistance to mitigate the effects of long-term drought. Funds are directed toward compensation for temporary or multi-year reduction in diversions or consumption of water, voluntary conservation projects, ecosystems and habitat restoration and related activities. The drought-related funds will be channeled through the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to the 17 states within the bureau’s jurisdiction. The law also provides an additional $4.95 billion for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In the last Farm Bill, AWWA was successful in getting the RCPP program more targeted to projects that can protect sources of drinking water. Another $550 million is directed to the planning, design or construction of projects that will provide domestic water to disadvantaged communities or households that have not had reliable access to such water in the past. That money is available through September 2031. Congress set aside $25 million to put solar panels over water conveyance structures, meaning water supply canals. The bill also provides $1.9 billion for several surface transportation activities, including installing natural infrastructures or permeable surfaces to reduce or manage stormwater runoff. The bulk of the IRA addresses climate change, prescription drug prices, Medicare expenses, corporate taxes and energy efficiency. Among these is a provision that will allow tax-exempt entities to receive direct payments for renewable energy installation (which for other entities would be provided as a tax credit) for the first time, although the details of how that will operate are not yet clear. Illinois conservation project receives federal support A recently announced Regional Conservation Partnership Program award of nearly $10 million from the Natural Resources Conservation Service , combined with partner contributions of $15 million, will help to protect source waters for the City of Decatur, Ill., under the Lake Decatur Water Quality Initiative . This initiative will help reduce sediments and nitrates, simultaneously improving water quality and promoting climate-smart practices. This project joins the list of voluntary, incentive-based collaborations between the water sector and the agricultural community happening throughout the country, including projects in Maine, Kansas, Arkansas and Iowa. AWWA has championed the use of NRCS conservation programs as one way to bridge essential source water protection needs, and NRCS has committed to spending at least 10% of conservation funding to help protect sources of drinking water. Those interested in exploring future opportunities are encouraged to contact Adam Carpenter , AWWA’s manager of energy and environmental policy. U.S. RMP proposal deemed ‘economically significant’ The White House Office of Management and Budget has recently deemed “economically significant” a proposed revision by the Biden Administration to federal Risk Management Plan (RMP) requirements. That designation means the proposed rule revision would have an annual impact on the economy of $100 million or more. We expect the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to seek comment on the proposal in coming weeks. This newest version of the rule is expected to reintroduce provisions from the 2017 rule issued by the Obama administration, which was ultimately replaced by a 2019 rule finalized by the Trump administration. The proposed changes would resurrect elements of the 2017 rule that would mandate consideration of “inherently safer technology,” third-party audits and root-cause analysis for incident or near misses. These are provisions that AWWA opposed in comments submitted to EPA, given unsubstantiated claims of benefit, existing high levels of safety performance by water systems and unaccounted burdens placed on local government. In addition, we expect to see included in the proposal recommendations from a recent Government Accountability Office report that call on EPA to account for climate risks and environmental justice issues. EPA held a series of listening sessions in 2021 to gather stakeholder input on the RMP, which implements Section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act. Drinking water and wastewater utilities with RMPs and others interested in supporting AWWA’s comment development and response should contact Kevin Morley , AWWA’s federal relations manager. Registration still open for WIFIA/SRF workshop Registration is still available for a free workshop Sept. 14-16 in Portland, Ore., that will explore how the Water Infrastructure and Finance Innovation Act (WIFIA) program and the state revolving loan fund (SRF) programs can work together to help water utilities finance infrastructure improvements. The workshop will immediately follow AWWA’s Water Infrastructure Conference , also in Portland, Sept. 11-14. Utility officials and EPA infrastructure finance staff will address topics such as financing lead service line removal, utility success stories, climate resilient infrastructure, incorporating equity into projects, co-financing and strategies to boost the success of proposals. The workshop is targeted to water, wastewater and stormwater managers, utility finance staff, municipal finance professionals, federal and state infrastructure finance staff and similar professionals. It will be held at the Embassy Suites by Hilton in downtown Portland. AWWA is producing the workshop with a grant from EPA. WaterRF seeking utility input on corrosion control The Water Research Foundation (Water RF) is soliciting survey responses from water systems on their corrosion control practices for a project titled, “ Project 5119, Using Phosphate-Based Corrosion Inhibitors and Sequestrants to Meet Multiple Water Treatment Objectives . The survey is brief, but responses are due by Aug. 31. The project is particularly timely given the emphasis on phosphate corrosion inhibitor-based corrosion control in the Lead and Copper Rule Revisions issued by EPA.