The Federal government recently announced $116.9 million in water and environmental project loans and grants through The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. Water infrastructure investment is a critical part of any domestic recovery and reinvestment initiative coming out of the government, and this water investment represents just a fraction of the over $2 billion water and environmental project loans and grants distributed so far by the government.
“Recovery Act projects are helping rural communities of all sizes build a foundation for economic strength, future prosperity, and a healthy environment. The projects we’re announcing today will help create jobs while rebuilding America’s infrastructure.” – U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack
The millions of dollars in loans and grants being given to rural counties in 19 states throughout the country represent essential investments and upgrades in water distribution lines, storage tanks and pump stations. Many of the projects will bring water system infrastructure to small, historically poor regions within the U.S. where no infrastructure had existed before. The funding will be administered by USDA Rural Development’s Water and Environmental Program.
One of the goals of the Recovery Act is to address long-neglected challenges, the topic of a letter from the National Ground Water Association (NGWA) to President Obama, recommending that states adopt a variety of infrastructure projects. McCray and the NGWA emphasize addressing the long-term challenge of fresh water access, essentially extending the scope of many of the projects currently being funded by the ARRA.
“In 2003, 36 state water managers told the U.S. Government Accountability Office that they anticipated local, regional, or statewide fresh water shortages over the next 10 years under normal conditions. Population growth, changing development patterns, and projected climate change will only compound the challenge. An approach to consider that could be quickly implemented is to give funding priority under applicable federal water infrastructure funding programs to ‘shovel-ready’ projects.” – NGWA Executive Director Kevin McCray
The NGWA suggests investing in projects that monitor U.S. groundwater, fund maintenance of existing small and community groundwater infrastructure and augment recharge areas that are strained by urban sprawl and increasing agricultural use. The letter also emphasized renewable energy developments like geothermal heat pumps and the importance of modernizing water transmission and distribution lines to improve sustainability and reduce energy consumption throughout the water supply.
McCray makes a good point about prioritizing projects that are ready to go. Just over $67 billion of the allocated $275 billion set aside for loans and grants under the ARRA have been distributed.
“Prioritizing… shovel-ready projects not only injects a short-term stimulus into the economy but pays long-term dividends. These projects will improve our nation’s water security, conserve our groundwater resources, bring safe drinking water to economically challenged areas, provide energy savings, and offer employment opportunities for groundwater professionals and others, many of whom are struggling with the economic downturn.” – NGWA Executive Director Kevin McCray
Good for the future of both water infrastructure and job creation, look for water projects to get more and more priority in the future.