Infrastructure Summit: Funding for Water, Wastewater, and Utilities Projects

by Bob Stern   |   August 2, 2022

An influx of federal funding is now available for U.S. infrastructure projects through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (also known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, signed in November 2021). ARPA provides $350 billion in COVID relief funds, while the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law designates $1.2 trillion for a variety of infrastructure improvements. A portion of infrastructure funds from each bill is earmarked for water, wastewater, and utilities, making now the perfect time for water and utility authorities to pursue new projects.

Water Untilities Infrastructure

ARPA Infrastructure Funding for Water and Wastewater

ARPA funding has already flowed from the federal government into the bank accounts of state and local governments. Many local entities are in the process of determining which programs and projects they will fund with it, while some have already moved forward. Here are a few examples of ARPA-funded water and wastewater projects:

  • $40 Million Sewer and Water Infrastructure Project
    The City of Buffalo, NY, implemented a $40 million sewer and water infrastructure project to improve the efficiency, quality, and service of water and sewer systems. The ARPA funds will be used to include smart sewer and water infrastructure as part of the city’s ongoing transportation infrastructure plan.
  • $41 Million Stormwater Improvement Infrastructure Project
    This $41 million infrastructure project uses ARPA funding for improvements including measures to manage, reduce, treat, or recapture stormwater or subsurface drainage water according to Stormwater Best Management Practices in East Baton Rouge Parish, LA.

If your district is hoping to implement ARPA funds for an infrastructure project, you must allocate the funds by the end of 2024 and complete projects by the end of 2026, so time is of the essence.

Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Funding for Water and Wastewater

A more recent piece of legislation, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides $1.2 trillion for infrastructure funding, including $55 billion for water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure. Most of that earmarked funding is available through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF), a partnership between federal and state governments that finances a variety of infrastructure projects related to water quality, and the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF), which allocates funding for infrastructure improvements to drinking water systems. State governments often provide an intended use plan (the Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection is a good example) to give parameters for how the funding can be used.

Water Treatment

Beyond ARPA and the new infrastructure law, other federal programs that provide funding for local projects include Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

How to Determine the Best Uses for Infrastructure Funding

Planning new infrastructure projects strategically can be challenging. Tim LaChapelle, chief digital officer at Parsons, works with water authorities and utilities to identify the projects that will provide the most benefits. “We encourage our customers to look at their holistic operations,” says LaChapelle. “How can they make their operations better and easier to maintain?”

Those improvements often include digital transformation, applying new technologies such as digital twins and GIS location. “I’ve seen a massive uptick on digital twins, just digitally taking the data that the utilities own and finding ways to create a digital replica,” LaChapelle says. “It’s easy for them to maintain and helps them get a good handle on their facilities.”

LaChapelle also sees a lot of funding utilized toward project management information system integration. “A lot of organizations are looking to find ways to harness the power of data in their facilities.”

Water Infrastructure

Investing in Digital Project Management for Water Infrastructure

About four years ago, the Las Vegas Valley Water District & Southern Nevada Water Authority replaced their in-house project management system with e-Builder. “We fully implemented e-Builder to manage all our capital programs for both the water district and water authority, managing a total of about $4 billion in capital improvements,” says Peter Jauch, director of engineering.

The organization put a lot of effort into integrating the funding, sourcing, and cash flows with their finance groups so they could accurately project financial models and outlooks. “It’s been a great tool for us as an organization to have essentially one location for all our information on the capital programs across two agencies.”

Insights from Cityworks on Infrastructure Funding

A GIS-centric public asset management and permitting platform, Cityworks allows capital programs to log work history across categories and use the gathered data and insights to make more informed decisions.

When it comes to utilizing federal funding, Cityworks provides insights about return on investment that can help organizations decide how to conduct future projects. “We have people who are using information from Cityworks to inform where they should spend ARPA funding,” says Dinorah Sanchez, product manager at Cityworks. For example, a user in the Great Lakes region uses operational insights to identify where the biggest risks are to their water lines and sanitary sewers. “It helps them make targeted decisions as to what projects need to occur in their communities.”

Incorporating IoT Devices and Cybersecurity Safeguards

Trimble offers additional technologies that feed information to Cityworks and e-Builder through IoT remote monitoring devices that can be installed in various parts of a water and wastewater infrastructure to monitor the system’s performance, identify vulnerabilities, and help determine the best applications for ARPA and infrastructure funding.

Cybersecurity is a growing concern in every sector, and another area where federal funding can be applied to improve security. Tackling this area can be overwhelming and time consuming because it encompasses everything from authenticating equipment manufacturers to ensuring that apps and devices have the latest firmware updates. To determine the best ways to enhance your cybersecurity, start with a risk assessment.

IoT Utilities

Trust e-Builder for the Infrastructure Answers

With capital improvement budgets potentially doubling or tripling due to infrastructure funding, how you manage and execute your projects going forward will need to be different.

e-Builder can smartly position your local government organization to overcome this immediate need to scale. At e-Builder, we have over 25 years of experience supporting and managing infrastructure capital improvement projects.

Key Topics Covered: infrastructure

About the Author

Bob Stern
Director of Strategic Initiatives, Partnerships & Alliances
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