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Two weeks ago, the new Administration unveiled its $2 trillion infrastructure plan to address major shortcomings in the nation’s infrastructure, which currently ranks 13th in the world. The plan heavily underscores innovation to mitigate and adapt to progressive climate change, including renewing water infrastructure, while investing in historically marginalized communities and fueling jobs and workforce development in a shifting economy.

Prioritizing Climate Change
There is near-unanimous global scientific agreement that climate change is causing temperatures to increase, sea levels to rise, flooding events to become more frequent and intense, and hurricanes and wildfires to become more destructive. These events are placing increased strain on existing infrastructure – including water, stormwater and sewer systems – which is already failing in the US, recently receiving an overall C- grade from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). 

In 2020, the United States faced 22 individual major weather and climate disasters, costing $95 billion in damages to homes, businesses, and public infrastructure. The new infrastructure plan lays out numerous ways to upgrade infrastructure to reduce our vulnerability to climate patterns. Most notably, under the plan, $35 billion will be funneled into “technology breakthroughs that address the climate crisis,” with emphasis on protecting and restoring nature-based infrastructure.

Ensuring Sustainable Water Infrastructure
Aging water and stormwater systems threaten public safety and health in thousands of communities nationwide. The American Society of Civil Engineers gave both the US wastewater and stormwater systems “D” grades in its 2021 infrastructure report card published last month. The infrastructure plan  seeks to upgrade and modernize America’s aging and near-failing water, wastewater, and stormwater systems by scaling up existing, successful programs. This proposed $56 billion investment, encouraging water efficiency and recycling, will be distributed through grants and low-cost flexible loans to states, Tribes, territories, and communities nationwide. 

Advancing Equity & Racial Justice
Low-income and people of color are more likely to live in areas highly prone to flooding and other extreme weather events, while also having fewer means to prepare for or recover from them. The infrastructure plan seeks to prioritize infrastructure investments within historically marginalized and excluded communities that are both physical and financially most vulnerable to climate-driven disasters, as well as to ensure that these communities have equitable access to well-paying jobs locally. 40% of the benefits of climate and clean infrastructure investments will be concentrated within disadvantaged and historically marginalized communities through mechanisms like the Community Revitalization Fund and $100 billion will be allocated to workforce development programs targeted at underserved populations. 

Fostering Workforce Development & Job Creation
At present, more than 10 million Americans are officially unemployed – a rate of 6.3% that exceeds that of the Great Recession. And economists estimate the true number is likely much higher. Under the new infrastructure plan, $10 billion would be allocated to put a new, diverse generation to work in conservation through a new Civilian Climate Corps, helping improve racial and gender equity while bolstering community resilience and environmental justice. As more Americans find themselves shifting their career orientation in a changing economy, the need for new skills development has grown exponentially as well. To adequately prepare workers with the new skills they need to thrive, the plan proposes the Dislocated Workers Program, which will fund comprehensive services to help displaced workers gain new skills and get connected with in-demand jobs. 

To review the comprehensive new plan fact sheet for details, click here. With the above four key priorities at the helm, the new plan could have significant implications for water infrastructure, the future of stormwater management, and the opportunity to accelerate green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) solutions nationwide. Stay tuned.

The third and final installment in the US Water Alliance’s “Implementing One Water” series, held on February 24th,  featured discussion around innovative funding approaches that create new opportunities to fund projects aimed at accelerating the adoption of One Water strategies nationwide. Presenters shared how they are innovating new financial models to fund these projects by connecting investors with project deliverers, centering environmental outcomes, and looking at the impact on a regional level. 

The “Implementing One Water” series featured One Water champions and the projects spearheaded by them, addressing three key components that put a One Water future within reach: engineering, planning, and financing. The distinguished presenters that shared their work and expertise in this last webinar on financing were:

  • Hank Habicht, Co-Founder, Water Finance Exchange
  • Eric Letsinger, CEO, Quantified Ventures
  • David Naftzger, Executive Director, Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Governors and Premiers 

If you were unable to attend, you can view the recording here.

 

On April 29th at 3:00pm ET, the US Water Alliance will host a webinar on the topic of public support for water infrastructure and its implications for the future of our nation’s water and wastewater management. The webinar will feature a discussion with a pollster, a researcher, and a utility leader.  

The Value of Water Campaign polls American voters every year to gauge their views on the state of our nation’s water infrastructure and what they believe are potential remedies and improvements that should be prioritized. This poll has demonstrated time and again that public support for closing the federal water and wastewater investment gap remains high. In the US alone, it will take a $109-billion-per-year federal investment in water infrastructure over a span of 20 years to accomplish that goal. The result would be significant, with multiple benefits – including the creation of new jobs and increase in disposable income nationwide. 

The distinguished presenters in this webinar who’ll weigh in on the topic of public opinion at length are:

  • Allison Deines, Director of Policy and Strategy, Alexandria Renew Enterprises
  • Dave Metz, Partner and President, FM3 Research
  • Dr. Manuel Teodoro, Associate Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison

To register, click here.

The National Recreation and Parks Association (NRPA) recently announced the release of available funding and coaching for advancing community-driven, systemic-change strategies for equitable park access that helps bolster the health and climate resilience of communities. The grant program will support projects that focus on and further these priorities through partnerships with local community-based organizations. 

To be eligible, projects should address system-wide park access planning, data collection/analysis, policies and capital improvements, while centering equitable as relates to park access within the scope of the broader vision of climate resilience. The main applicant must either be a local government agency that plans, builds and/or operates parks or affiliated 501c(3) non-profit organization, or otherwise submit a letter of support for the project under consideration from the park and recreation agency director.  The project must include community leadership and demonstrate a clear path to advancing systems-change that centers equity, diversity, and inclusion. 

NRPA will fund 6 to 10 communities and grants will range between $300,000 and $500,000 each, for a total of 2.5 years. The deadline to submit an application is April 23, 2021. Grantees will be selected by May 21, 2021. Learn more here!

 

Two weeks ago, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its new $67-million Sewer Overflow and Stormwater Reuse Municipal Grant program (OSG), which aims to further public health and environmental protection by assisting states and cities with improving stormwater management and addressing sewer overflows, in an effort to reduce pollution that can flow into local waterways. This funding will go towards critical overflow and stormwater infrastructure projects in local communities. 

Stormwater can be a significant source of water pollution that can adversely impact public health. Stormwater can collect pollutants – including trash, chemicals, oils, and dirt/sediment – conveying them to waterways close by. When mixed with wastewater in combined sewers, stormwater can also contribute to sewer overflows (CSO) during heavy rainstorms, which presents complex environmental challenges.

To help address these challenges, the EPA is making this grant funding available to states, U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia and funds will subsequently be allocated as sub-awards to municipalities for projects that advance infrastructure needs for CSOs, sanitary sewer overflows (SSO), and stormwater management. This $67 million water infrastructure investment will result in roughly 1,000 direct and indirect new jobs. For additional details, click here (or here). 

Our heartfelt gratitude to our funders for their support of our mission, which makes our work possible.