Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act Would Provide $55 billion in Funds for Clean Water

Published: September 23, 2021

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If passed, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act would provide $55 billion in funding for clean water and eliminating lead pipes.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which was passed by the Senate in August, includes $55 billion for clean water and eliminating lead pipes. This would be the largest investment in cleaning drinking water in American history and would improve public health and water infrastructure throughout the country. The money would be passed to state and local governments to undertake projects to protect clean water and eliminate lead pipes throughout the country. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has several vehicles to allocate the $55 billion to states and local governments.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act included funds for the following programs, all of which will be distributed over five years:

  • Clean Water State Revolving Fund - $11.713 billion
  • Drinking Water State Revolving Fund - $11.713 billion
  • Lead Service Lines – $15 billion
  • Emerging Contaminants in Wastewater - $1 billion
  • Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in Drinking Water - $4 billion

The bill includes authorization for a number of clean water programs that will address the needs of low-income households. Through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF), the EPA would provide loans to states to construct wastewater facilities, control water pollution and protect estuaries, and fund other projects designed to improve water quality. The nearly $12 billion for the CWSRF would require a 10% match from states for the first two years. A similar program, the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF), gives states funding to help improve drinking water, fix leaky or old pipes, replace or construct finished water storage tanks or other infrastructure projects that protect public health. Nearly $12 billion will be allocated through DWSRF. Together, these two programs will help states improve their drinking water and protect waterways and create opportunities for contractors who can help with these projects.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act also aims to eliminate lead pipes, which are known as lead service lines, and are a pervasive problem in the United States. The EPA estimates that there are 6 to 10 million lead service lines still in use throughout the country. Although every state has lead pipes, they are not distributed evenly throughout the country. Illinois may have as much of a quarter of the country’s lead pipes. Other Midwestern states, like Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin are also estimated to have a high number of lead service lines. Contractors who work in the Midwest will likely see opportunities to work on elimination projects, such as the one passed by Illinois.

Many states do not know how many lead services lines are still in use, which means that surveys will be required in many states before work can begin. The elimination of lead service lines throughout the country is expected to be an ongoing project, as it will take time to survey the lead service lines in the country and allocate funds to replace them. Furthermore, most of the money will be allocated over five years, allowing funding to be used for long-term projects.

The $15 billion that has been set aside specifically for lead service line replacement requires no match from the state. Half of this money would be grants or forgivable loans. Although $15 billion has been allocated for eliminating lead pipes, many experts do not believe that is an adequate sum of money, with some estimating that $60 billion is needed to fully eliminate all lead service lines. This is likely to continue to be an area of focus in the coming years as states work to continue to replace lead service lines where possible.

The inclusion of $55 billion for clean water and eliminating lead pipes in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act marks a major investment in both public health and infrastructure. Although details of the bill may change as it is yet to be passed in the house, clean drinking water and eliminating lead service lines are likely to remain priorities at both a federal and a state level in the coming future, creating opportunities for contractors across the country.