We continue this week to highlight certain states and the approaches they are taking to meet water infrastructure challenges.
Earlier this year the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services commissioned a State Drinking Water Facility Assessment, the first of a planned series of periodic needs assessments of the State’s drinking water infrastructure. The assessment detailed the replacement value of Delaware’s water infrastructure assets, the current investment plans of the State’s various utilities, and the State’s likely investment needs over the next 20 years.
The report looked at the roughly 34 water systems that serve the majority of Delaware’s population and determined that a substantial proportion of their assets date back to the early- to mid-1900s -meaning that they are at, or approaching the end of, their useful lives. The report estimated the replacement cost of those water assets at $4 billion, requiring an annual investment rate of approximately $80 million.
The EPA did approve a $54 million plan submitted by the State in 2014 for clean water initiatives, including efforts to improve local water quality by replacing old and failing septic systems. That plan includes $6.8 million from the EPA’s FY 2014 Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF), which makes low-interest loans to help communities protect and improve drinking water quality. To fund the plan, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) combined the 2014 CWSRF grant with prior year CWSRF loan repayments and interest paid by local governments on their loans and matching funds.
“Investing in clean water infrastructure pays tremendous dividends for Delaware’s environment and economy,” said DNREC Secretary David Small in announcing the plan. “We appreciate EPA’s capitalization grant and along with our state matching funds and loan repayments, Delaware is maximizing funding to address critical clean water projects that help make our precious bays, rivers and streams cleaner and healthier, protect public health, and provide jobs and economic growth in our communities.”
Under the plan, Sussex County received $6.7 million for an infrastructure project in the Angola North region consisting of wastewater collection and transmission systems to eliminate failing septic systems, the city of Lewes received $1.47 million for its Highland Acres wastewater collection system and another $1.62 million for its Savannah Place wastewater collection system, and the city of Seaford received $2.01 million for its Renewable Energy Solar System project at its wastewater treatment plant.
Nebraska’s agriculture brings particular challenges in efforts to protect the State’s water from contamination. Runoff from rain and irrigation carries chemicals and topsoil into streams in both urban and rural areas, causing surface water contamination. More than 50 years of crop production has allowed fertilizers and agricultural chemicals to reach groundwater in parts of the state. Nebraska’s small and rural communities in particular have struggled with the cost of upgrading and repairing their drinking water and wastewater systems. Fortunately, two of the State’s rural communities were the fortunate recipients of a portion of loans and grants recently approved by the USDA to help rural communities improve water and wastewater infrastructure.
The village of Clearwater was awarded $2.7 million towards a $3.0 million project to upgrade the existing water collection system and to build new lagoons required to meet health and safety standards. The village of Clearwater will contribute $90,000 and a community block grant will add $250,000.
And the village of Lewiston, Nebraska was awarded $458,000 to upgrade its exiting wastewater facilities and to build new facilities. The funding will ensure that Lewiston’s wastewater system will meet applicable health and sanitary standards, specifically the standard for ammonia and E.coli in treatment effluent.
We at CWC are encouraged by these examples of Federal-State cooperation in addressing the challenges that states and local communities face in shoring up inadequate water infrastructure. Our country needs and deserves more of these, and we will continue to press Congress and the Federal agencies to see that joint funding initiatives like these continue to multiply in all 50 states.