WASHINGTON (September 18, 2020) — Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wrapped up a collaborative week of actions and local events that highlighted water reuse and water infrastructure. This week the agency’s actions included supporting water infrastructure affordability, advancing the National Water Reuse Action Plan (WRAP), and announcing a $69 million Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan to help finance the Pure Water Oceanside (Calif.) Project and a $348.6 million WIFIA loan to the Salt Lake City Department of Public Utilities. To wrap up the week, EPA Assistant Administrator David Ross and EPA Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest John Busterud toured the Monterey One Water (Calif.) recycled water projects on Friday. These actions highlight EPA’s commitment to helping local communities meet 21st century water quality challenges.
Financial Capability Assessment
On Tuesday, EPA announced its proposed 2020 Financial Capability Assessment (FCA) for the Clean Water Act, which will help communities plan for water infrastructure improvements. This action marks the first time in more than 20 years the FCA has been updated. Through the 2020 FCA, EPA is seeking to support water utilities that serve economically disadvantaged communities and provide vital clean water services that support public health, the environment and local economies.
“EPA is working to ensure that all Americans—regardless of their zip code—have clean water for drinking and recreation,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for Water David Ross. “With this action, the agency is supporting wastewater utilities to help them better serve disadvantaged communities that have financial challenges.”
“It has been a long time since the 1997 Guidance for Financial Capability Assessment and Schedule Development reflected EPA’s actual practices when reviewing the affordability of Clean Water Act control measures,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Susan Bodine. “I am glad we finally are providing transparency regarding the tools available to communities to inform EPA enforcement decisions and how we use that information.”
On Wednesday, at the virtual 35th Annual WateReuse Symposium, Assistant Administrator Ross delivered remarks that outlined a vision for reuse where communities, agriculture, and businesses in both water-scarce and water-rich regions increasingly turn to reuse to diversify their supply portfolios for current and future needs. Additionally, during the symposium, WateReuse President Gilbert Trejo presented the association’s 2020 President’s Award to EPA’s WRAP team for facilitating the collaborative development of the Water Reuse Action Plan, released earlier this year. The WRAP identifies 37 specific actions led by a spectrum of federal, state, local and other water sector interests to improve the security, sustainability and resilience of our nation’s water resources. Over the coming months, EPA will be seeking input from stakeholders that will help inform the next iteration of the Action Plan, which is slated for release in Spring 2021.
“Water reuse must be a central theme in EPA’s efforts to meet 21st century demands for water,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for Water David Ross. “While we are extremely proud of the progress made, the WRAP was designed as a living plan where EPA and its partners can build momentum from successes to continue diversifying our nation’s water portfolio while supporting our water economy for generations to come.”
On Thursday, at an event with Oceanside Mayor Peter Weiss, U.S. Representative Mike Levin and other officials, Assistant Administrator David Ross announced a $69 million WIFIA loan to help finance the Pure Water Oceanside Project. This innovative water reuse project will enhance the city’s water system by constructing a new advanced water purification facility and expanding the existing recycled water distribution system. The Project will supply Mission Basin with an additional 4.5 million gallons per day (MGD) of highly purified water that will improve overall water quality in the aquifer, relieve over-pumping conditions and reduce discharges to the Pacific Ocean. The project will also reduce the demand for imported water by providing a local, drought-proof water supply produced by the city.
“EPA’s support for this project illustrates two agency priorities as we work to meet 21st century water demands—reusing the water that we have and revamping our nation’s water infrastructure,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for Water David Ross. “With WIFIA’s support, Pure Water Oceanside will be a landmark project as EPA looks to foster additional innovative water reuse strategies and infrastructure investments across the country.”
“By improving water infrastructure, we are improving the quality of life and public health in our communities,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator John Busterud. “Through the WIFIA loan program, EPA is happy to support the Pure Water Oceanside Project in ensuring access to clean and safe drinking water for decades to come.”
Additionally, at an event held Thursday with Salt Lake City Council Chairman Chris Wharton, Utah Department of Environmental Quality Executive Director Scott Baird, Salt Lake City Department of Public Utilities Deputy Director Jesse Stewart and other dignitaries, EPA Associate Deputy Administrator Doug Benevento announced a $348.6 million WIFIA loan to the Salt Lake City Department of Public Utilities. This WIFIA loan will help finance Salt Lake City’s Water Reclamation Facility Nutrient Project, which will reconstruct Salt Lake City’s 55-year old water reclamation facility and implement an additional treatment process to enable the city to meet the new, state limit on total phosphorus of 1 mg/L as required by January 1, 2025. In addition, the project will increase the system’s resiliency to seismic and flooding events.
“Through WIFIA, EPA is playing a critical role in President Trump’s efforts to upgrade our nation’s infrastructure, improve public health and environmental protections and create good, local jobs,” said EPA Associate Deputy Administrator Doug Benevento. “This loan closing marks EPA’s 28th WIFIA loan and the first WIFIA loan in Utah. Nationally, the WIFIA program has now provided $6.1 billion in credit assistance to help finance $13 billion for water infrastructure while creating 27,200 jobs.”
“The reconstruction of Salt Lake City’s aging water reclamation facility and EPA’s financing tools provide an important win for the entire region,” said EPA Mountains and Plains Regional Administrator Greg Sopkin. “Together, we are improving the environmental and ecosystem health of the Great Salt Lake, improving the resiliency of the community’s vital wastewater services, saving the city and its ratepayers money, and creating jobs in the process.”
Water Reuse Site Visit
Finally, on Friday Assistant Administrator Ross and EPA Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest John Busterud toured the Monterey One Water (Calif.) recycled water projects. The wastewater agency supports water reuse goals for both drinking water and agricultural purposes. The first stop on the tour highlighted the Pure Water Monterey’s multi-stage purification process that turns wastewater into 5 MGD of safe, reliable and sustainable drinking water. The second stop underscored the potential for water reuse to support agricultural production. The tour demonstrated the processes used to provide 4 billion gallons per year of recycled water for the irrigation of food crops, reducing reliance on pumped groundwater.
“For decades, water reuse has helped Monterey County diversify its water supply. Key agricultural fields threatened by seawater intrusion have remained productive with the addition of recycled water that is safe for food crops while our new advanced water purification facility uses groundwater replenishment to strengthen a vital potable water supply,” said Monterey One Water General Manager Paul Sciuto. “Projects like these demonstrate the viability and benefits of federal, state, and local advancements in water reuse to build a more resilient water future.”
What Are They Saying About the 2020 Financial Capability Assessment:
“The Conference of Mayors has been working with the US EPA since the 1990s outlining the growing burden of financial impacts that unfunded Clean Water Act mandates have on our poorest and most vulnerable citizens. This new affordability guidance provides greater transparency and additional tools to allow cities to work in conjunction with EPA to find solutions that protect public health in a more affordable manner. We appreciate EPA’s willingness to listen to our concerns and work with us to develop solutions,” said U.S. Conference of Mayors Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director Tom Cochran.
“Affordability is a pressing concern for water and wastewater utility customers, even more so in this time of pandemic. The American Water Works Association (AWWA) is pleased that EPA has released this proposal for public review and comment. It is a genuine effort to ensure that clean and safe water is affordable for low-income customers,” said AWWA Executive Director of Government Affairs G. Tracy Mehan.
“NACWA applauds EPA’s hard work over the past several years to advance a proposed financial capability assessment that strives to better account for potential impacts on low-income populations,” said NACWA CEO Adam Krantz. “This has never been more important than now as utilities and ratepayers struggle with the financial impacts caused by the ongoing pandemic.”
“WEF is excited to see EPA move forward with the proposed 2020 Financial Capability Assessment for the Clean Water Act,” said WEF President Jackie Jarrell. “We believe this new guidance, when finalized and implemented, will help utilities across the country to more accurately ascertain how much their customers and communities can afford to pay for compliance with Clean Water Act requirements, particularly by considering household-level affordability that better reflects the financial situation for lower-income ratepayers.”
What Are They Saying About the WIFIA Loans:
“I am proud and excited for the City of Oceanside and everyone who has worked so hard on the Pure Water Oceanside project. Now more than ever, it’s critically important that we diversify our water supply. Thanks to Pure Water Oceanside, the City of Oceanside, and this EPA loan, we are one step closer to achieving that independence,” said U.S. Representative Mike Levin (CA). “This is an extraordinary milestone and will make a huge difference for countless families in North County. The cooperation between local, state, and federal governments is truly impressive, and I’ll continue to support this project in any way I can.”
“The City of Oceanside is proud to be a leader in sustainability and water reliability. Pure Water Oceanside marks the next big step for our City as the project will safeguard against drought, reduce our dependence on imported water, and create an exceptionally pure drinking water supply,” said Oceanside Mayor Peter Weiss. “I appreciate the U.S. EPA in their funding support as it is a critical aspect for Oceanside’s ability to continue to improve our local water supplies while minimizing our impact to our rate payers.”
“Water is a vital resource in the West and we need to make long term plans to ensure a safe and plentiful supply,” said U.S. Representative John Curtis (UT). “I appreciate that this WIFIA loan will help Utah for decades to come by updating water infrastructure, allowing our children and grandchildren to have cleaner water than ever before.”
“The new water reclamation facility is one of the largest public works projects in Salt Lake City history,” said Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall. “With federal WIFIA financing, our residents will benefit from a longer loan repayment period and deferred payments for up to five years after the project’s completion. This creative financing model, along with collaboration of federal, state, and local agencies, is pivotal to growing our infrastructure and to providing service and greater equity to our entire community.”
“EPA’s help in financing the Salt Lake City Water Reclamation Facility will protect public health and the environment by upgrading a vital piece of local infrastructure critical to protecting the Great Salt Lake,” said Utah’s Department of Environmental Quality Executive Director Scott Baird. “Nutrient pollution is a widespread and costly environmental issue. With the help of EPA, Salt Lake City and state lawmakers, Utah is making important strides in reducing and regulating excess nitrogen and phosphorus in Utah waters.”
“Our decision to pursue a WIFIA loan for the new water reclamation facility was a key piece of our leadership team’s deliberative financial strategy for the project and responsible spending of public dollars,” said Salt Lake City Department of Public Utilities Director Laura Briefer. “We estimate WIFIA financing will save our City up to $100 million over the life of the project when compared to traditional bonding. This facility will serve many generations to come, and it is evidence of Salt Lake City’s longtime commitment to environmental stewardship and protecting public health.”