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Senate Approves WIFIA

capitolThe creation of a federal Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Authority (WIFIA) is one major step closer to becoming a reality, after the U.S. Senate passed legislation that includes the WIFIA pilot program. WIFIA is part of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2013, that was approved 83 to 14 by the Senate on May 15. The U.S. House is expected to consider WRDA in late summer or early fall.

The American Water Works Association (AWWA), which played a major role in developing the WIFIA concept, called WIFIA’s passage a “huge step forward” for water consumers and urged broad support as the legislation heads to the House. “WIFIA would repair more critical water infrastructure at a lower cost to our communities. With so many of our nation’s water pipes in need of replacement, WIFIA will benefit everyone who receives a water bill," says AWWA Executive Director David LaFrance.

WIFIA would leverage $50 million of annual appropriations over five years for low-interest loans on major water and wastewater infrastructure projects. It would also help community water systems of all sizes by providing an alternative funding mechanism to the State Revolving Fund (SRF) programs for the completion of projects with costs greater than $20 million. This would reduce the financial demand from large projects and allow the existing SRF programs to fund more of the smaller projects throughout the country. In order to provide increased flexibility to predominantly rural states, SRF programs experiencing an increased demand for loan funds would also have the ability to access WIFIA financing by aggregating the costs of multiple smaller cost projects to reach a combined loan amount of $20 million or more. WIFIA would borrow U.S. Treasury funds to provide low-interest loans, loan guarantees, or other credit support to local communities.

The pilot WIFIA program is modeled after the existing Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program that has been providing similar financial assistance to the nation's transportation infrastructure since 1998. To access more information about WIFIA, click here to read the AWWA, Water Environment Federation, and Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies' white paper on the subject.



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