Water Highlights of the Infrastructure Act of 2021
The U.S. Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, enacted in 2021, should kick-start many long overdue updates and improvements to the nation’s water infrastructure. This federal law reauthorizes many existing drinking water programs, appropriates expanded funding for water infrastructure and other programs, and commits $15 billion for lead service line replacement.
There are two main steps to distributing Infrastructure Act funding to local projects:
- Authorization creates or extends the life of a government program and sets its mission and limits.
- Appropriations is the legislative act that actually makes government money available.
What’s Happening Now
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released guidance on March 8 for implementation of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Most of this funding will be paid out by states, via existing state revolving loan fund (SRF) programs, in the form of loans or grants.
Different agencies administer each state’s SRF program; AWWA has published a guide to state SRF contacts. These state agencies will accept and process water project funding applications. Fortunately, EPA staff told AWWA that agency personnel have been preparing to administer Infrastructure Act project funding since the summer of 2021.
Questions about Infrastructure Act funding?
Please email AWWA Government Affairs:
Legislative Director: Tommy Holmes
Legislative Analyst: Nate Norris
Index of Infrastructure Act highlights
- Authorizations for Drinking Water
- Appropriations for Drinking Water
- Related Appropriations
- Cybersecurity Support
- Buy American Requirements
- Authorizations for Wastewater
- Appropriations for Wastewater
- USDA Authorizations
1. Authorizations for Drinking Water
Authorization is an initial step. The release of funds requires appropriations legislation, which is also in this bill. (See section 2)
- Extending existing SRF programs: $14.65 billion. This will fund state drinking water SRF programs for fiscal years 2022-2026.
- Small/disadvantaged communities: $510 million in assistance.
- Reducing lead contamination: $500 million. For replacing lead service lines and related activities, with an emphasis on assisting disadvantaged communities.
- Small systems: $250 million. To improve operational sustainability.
- Mid-size/large systems: $250 million. For resilience and sustainability programs.
- Schools: $200 million. For lead testing and remediation in K-12 public schools.
- Emergency assistance: $175 million. Continues authorization of funding for technical assistance and grants to address emergencies affecting public water systems, including natural hazards and cybersecurity, over five years.
- Technical assistance to small public water systems: $75 million. Continues authorization of funding for assistance to help small systems achieve and maintain compliance with drinking water regulations.
- Emerging technology assessment: $50 million. A new study will assess new technologies to address cybersecurity and water monitoring issues at drinking water systems. Includes a grant program for technology deployment.
- Water workforce: $5 million. Staff enhancement efforts drinking water and wastewater systems.
- Low-income water bill assistance. Needs assessment for a nationwide program. Also, 40 pilot projects to provide financial assistance to low-income customers.
2. Appropriations for Drinking Water
- DWSRF funding: $11.713 billion. Administered by EPA, the Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund provides funding to water systems and states. Nearly half (49%) of this is provided in the form of grants or loans with principal forgiveness. In FY 2022-2023, only a 10% state match is required.
- Water infrastructure financing: $50 million per year, FY 2022-2026. For programs created under the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act of 2014 (WIFIA).
- Lead service line replacement: $15 billion. FY 2022-2026, $3 billion per year. Nearly half (49%) will be in the form of grants or loans with principal forgiveness, no state match required.
- Emerging contaminants: $9 billion. Of this, $4 billion will be administered by EPA through the DWSRF, in the form of grants or principal forgiveness, and with a focus on perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances. An additional $5 billion is earmarked as grants to address emerging contaminants in economically distressed communities, also to be distributed via the SRF program.
- DWSRF baseline funding: $5.63 billion. $1.126 billion per year through FY2026 for the traditional SRF program
3. Related Appropriations
- Brownfields remediation: $1.5 billion. Funding for brownfields projects under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA).
- Underground Injection Control: $50 million. For grants to support state efforts.
4. Cybersecurity Support Authorization
- Water system risk assessment. EPA and the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) will identify public water systems that, if degraded or rendered inoperable, would lead to significant impacts on the public’s health and safety.
- Technical support. EPA and CISA will develop a technical cybersecurity support plan for public water systems. These agencies also will submit to Congress a list of public water systems needing technical support.
5. Buy American Requirements
- “Buy America” means that projects receiving federal funding assistance must use steel and iron products, as well as manufactured products and construction materials, that are produced in the U.S.
- “Produced in the U.S.” means that a product was manufactured in the U.S. Also, the cost of its components that are mined, produced or manufactured in the U.S. must be greater than 55% of the total cost of the manufactured product.
- Waivers may be granted when needed iron, steel, construction materials or manufactured products are not produced in the U.S. in sufficient and reasonably available quantities or of “satisfactory” quality.
6. Authorizations for Wastewater
- Clean Water State Revolving Fund: $14.65 billion, FY 2022-2026. EPA administers the CWSRF, which helps fund wastewater and other water quality projects.
- Overflow treatment: $1.4 billion. Grants to municipal entities through FY 2026, to control and treat sewer overflows and stormwater, and to provide public notification systems for overflow events.
- Residential septic systems: $250 million, through FY 2026. Grants to private nonprofit organizations to assist low/moderate-income households with the construction, repair or replacement of home septic system. Also may help fund the installation of larger septic systems designed to treat wastewater for two or more households.
- New sewer system connections: $200 million through FY 2026. Grant program to help low/moderate-income households connect to publicly owned treatment works.
- System resilience: $125 million through FY 2026. To establish a clean water infrastructure resiliency and sustainability program addressing natural hazards and cybersecurity vulnerabilities.
- Alternative water sources: $125 million through FY 2026. Continuation of a pilot program helping municipal, industrial and agricultural interests identify alternative sources of water in areas with critical water supply needs.
- Wastewater efficiency grants: $100 million through FY 2026. This will establish a pilot wastewater efficiency grant program. Owners or operators of publicly owned treatment works can undertake projects to create or improve waste-to-energy systems.
- Information sharing: $75 million through FY 2026. A competitive grant program will help establish systems that improve the sharing of information about water quality, water infrastructure needs, and water technology (including cybersecurity technology). This information will be shared between states, counties and other units of local government.
- Circuit rider program: $50 million through FY 2026. Expert assistance to owners and operators of small/medium-sized, publicly owned treatment works.
- Enhanced aquifer use and recharge: $25 million through FY 2026. Funding for research to support sole-source aquifers.
- Watershed improvement assessment: $5 million. To assess capital improvement needs for watersheds.
- Water Reuse Interagency Workgroup. EPA must establish this group, which will develop and coordinate actions, tools and resources to advance water reuse across the U.S. This includes implementation of the February 2020 National Water Reuse Action Plan.
- Stormwater Centers of Excellence. EPA is to establish three to five Centers of Excellence for stormwater control infrastructure and technologies.
- Future wastewater technology study. If funding is available, EPA would conduct a study of existing and potential future technology for wastewater treatment systems. This includes technologies to address cybersecurity vulnerabilities, enhance monitoring, or other improvements to the affordability, efficiency, and safety of wastewater services provided by a treatment works.
7. Appropriations for Wastewater
- Extended CWSRF funding: $11.713 billion through FY 2026 for the Clean Water Act state revolving loan fund program, administered by EPA.
- CWSRF additional funding: $8 billion. $1.6 billion per year has been appropriated through FY2026.
- Emerging contaminants: $1 billion. Increasing the CWSRF program’s ability to address emerging contaminants.
8. USDA Authorizations
- Watershed rehabilitation: $118 million. For projects conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
- $300 million for USDA to repair damages to waterways and watersheds due to natural disasters.
PDF version of these highlights
Resources for Water Utilities
Text of the legislation: Public Law 117–58, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021
EPA general program information:
- EPA announcement to governors about Infrastructure Act funding. Includes an initial state-by-state of funding allocations for FY2022.
- 2022 Allotments from Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (2021). More specific breakdown of funding per state, territory and tribes, for both drinking water and clean water SRFs, with detail on funding for lead service line replacement and emerging contaminants. These allotments for the initial tranche of funds, which do not require a match by a state.
Additional AWWA resources:
QUESTIONS? Contact AWWA Government Affairs staff
News: Infrastructure Act Funding
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- August 15: AWWA commented on Build America, Buy America waivers that EPA proposed for small projects and de minimus expenses for water infrastructure projects receiving federal assistance.
- July 29: EPA is requesting public comment on proposed waivers from Build America, Buy America requirements for de minimis costs and for projects costing less than $250,000. Deadline for comments is Aug.13.
- July 27: AWWA provided comments to EPA supporting a proposed, temporary public interest waiver from Build America, Buy America requirements for select grant programs.
- July 14: EPA is requesting public comment until July 27 on a proposed six-month waiver of Build America, Buy America requirements for certain types of projects receiving assistance under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
- June 29: AWWA provided comments to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on a proposed waiver of Build America, Buy America requirements for certain projects receiving assistance from the drinking water and wastewater state revolving loan fund programs.
- June 22: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a waiver from Build America, Buy America requirements for projects receiving assistance from the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act program and for which project design planning began before May 14.
- June 22: EPA will host a webinar at 1-2 p.m. EDT July 13 to describe how the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, also called the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), can help communities improve their water and wastewater infrastructure. Registration is available online.
- June 22: EPA is seeking public comment until June 29 on a proposed “public interest” waiver from Build America, Buy America (BABA) requirements for projects receiving assistance from the federal state revolving loan fund program, if engineering plans and specifications were submitted before May 14, the day BABA took effect.
- May 20: AWWA provided comments to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on a proposed waiver of Build America, Buy America requirements for certain projects receiving assistance from the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act program.
- May 9: EPA is seeking public comment until May 20 on a proposed waiver from Build America, Buy America for projects applying for funds under the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act program if planning for those projects began before May 14.
- April 18: The White House Office of Management and Budget issued a guidance memo to help compliance with the Build America, Buy America requirements of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. EPA is to issue its own guidance soon, tailored to water infrastructure programs.
- March 29: AWWA submits letter to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce related to a hearing that day on the nation’s water infrastructure and implementation of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
- March 8: EPA releases guidance for implementation of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
- Jan. 21. EPA to publish Buy America info for Infrastructure Act. AWWA Water Utility Insider (members only)
- Jan. 4: The Congressional Research Service updated their report, Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA): Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure