In the immediate past, water and wastewater infrastructure projects rarely created any public excitement … but that may be changing. Citizens throughout the country now realize the critical need for clean and safe drinking water and careful management of wastewater facilities. And, contractors who provide water-related services are welcoming a massive and expanded marketplace for their companies.

Public works-related infrastructure projects have been funded throughout the U.S., and even more funding is anticipated soon. The financial assistance is coming from many sources already, but the long-awaited infrastructure bill contains billions more for new water and wastewater infrastructure projects.

In Boise, Idaho, city leaders will hold a $570 million bond election for funding to expand a wastewater treatment plant, replace aging pipes, and develop water renewal or wastewater recycling services. Additionally, city leaders plan to use some of the funding for various other projects included in a Water Renewal Services plan that outlines projects with projected costs that exceed $900 million.

The state of South Dakota will support a multi-year water infrastructure project led by the city of Aberdeen. Construction of a 104-mile pipeline is planned. This project will be designed to tale water from the Missouri River and divert it to a water treatment facility. Because of the mileage covered in the plan, it will require pump stations, meter stations, and two reservoirs to be constructed at various points along the length of the pipeline. The project has been assigned a cumulative cost estimate of $271 million to $334 million. The plan also establishes framework for an annual operating budget between $1.1 million and $2.1 million. State and federal funding assistance is anticipated.

The governor of Pennsylvania announced in October that $186 million in funding for water infrastructure projects has been approved. Specifically, the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority will distribute the funding among 33 projects statewide. Projects outlined in the plan include:

  • $40.4 million for the replacement of approximately 20 miles of high-risk, outmoded water mains in Philadelphia.
  • $14.6 million in loans and $5.4 million in grant money to improve the Shaffer Run Water Treatment Plant in Somerset.
  • $7.1 million to the Greater Johnstown Water Authority, which will begin to replace about 10,000 feet of sewer collection lines. Remaining funds will be used to separate its storm sewer system from its sanitary sewer system to prevent seepage of contaminants into public recreational streams.

In September, the Michigan Strategic Fund provided an allocation of $14.9 million for water infrastructure projects. The funding will be distributed among 11 communities that need to replace water lines, upgrade water mains, and repair sewer systems.

The state of Minnesota has announced a statewide water service improvement program. The Minnesota Public Facilities Authority issued a comprehensive list of water and wastewater projects that it intends to shepherd through the state’s 2022 Clean Water Revolving Fund program. Included are 46 new projects that amount to a combined cost of $196 million. Additional funding will be available. Two noteworthy projects that will receive funding are:

  • The state’s Owatonna Wastewater Facility will be expanded to reduce phosphorus runoff into Straight River and other downstream bodies of water. The project’s total cost is estimated at $55 million, and construction is slated to begin in 2022.
  • The Otsego West facility for wastewater treatment will be improved to accommodate regional population growth and the corresponding need for increased treatment capacity. An estimated cost of $26 million has been assigned to the project which has already been covered by state funding, and construction will begin in 2022.

Texas officials made the state’s water priorities abundantly clear by approving 170 projects that are now listed as urgent priorities. One project with Angelina & Neches River Authority oversight involves development of a regional water system that will provide safe drinking water to a network of Public Water Systems. Ultimately, the $23 million project will allow the new regional water system to supply uncontaminated drinking water to its customer base while it decommissions current facilities that often supply tainted drinking water sourced from groundwater.

There is a heightened awareness of critical water infrastructure needs. Along with the high priority of ensuring clean and safe water and reliable wastewater infrastructure, many regions experiencing unexpected growth have a total focus on ensuring that they have adequate public works capabilities.

The anticipated infrastructure bill will have funding for water and wastewater projects of all types as well as funding for the removal of lead pipes that deliver water to millions of citizens. Those pipes are decades beyond anticipated lifecycles and replacing them is a critical mandate for government leaders.

The way citizens now value clean water and wastewater infrastructure has changed and when new projects with enhanced benefits are announced, there is genuinely gratitude. Many states, including New York, Indiana, Washington, Montana, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, now list their water and wastewater projects in the very first moments of each new fiscal year. That type of focus on critical water-related needs sends a strong message. Visionary leaders are preparing for tomorrow and ensuring safe and adequate water resources for future generations.

Mary Scott Nabers

As President and CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc., Mary Scott Nabers has decades of experience working in the public-private sector. A well-recognized expert in the P3 and government contracting fields, she is often asked to share her industry insights with top publications and through professional speaking engagements.