DVRPC has joined a nonprofit-led initiative called the Funding Navigator to assist municipalities and utilities in Southeastern Pennsylvania in accessing funding from the Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act (IIJA) and other sources to invest in water system improvements. This project is funded by the William Penn Foundation (WFP).
The Navigator team will draw on technical, financial, managerial, and community engagement expertise to work hand-in-hand with water systems to prioritize needs, develop applications, and secure state and federal funds for water-related (drinking water, wastewater and stormwater) infrastructure projects.
Funding Navigator staff will be hosted at DVRPC and focus on serving the five county area of Southeastern Pennsylvania (Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties) and surrounding areas within the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River watershed over a two year period (beginning in January of 2023). The nonprofit organization Environmental Policy Innovation Center (EPIC) is the project lead, with the support of several other organizations. New Jersey Future (NJF) is the place-based partner serving the New Jersey side of the Delaware River Basin (DRB).
Important Context: Deficient water infrastructure puts lives, livelihoods, and the environment at risk
Too many communities are ill-equipped to manage stormwater, aging systems, and increasing threats from climate change and emerging pollutants. Too many communities have not benefited from federal funds for water infrastructure. More than half a million homes in Pennsylvania and New Jersey have toxic lead pipes delivering drinking water. Many low income and communities of color in particular are bearing the legacy of environmental inequities.
Addressing these problems requires investment in infrastructure. The recent $55 billion dollar set aside for water infrastructure in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), also referred to as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), has the potential to deliver substantial environmental, economic, and public health benefits to communities throughout the Delaware Valley Region. Funds from the BIL represent a generational opportunity to upgrade infrastructure, enhance equity and build resilience, but only if the region seeks and obtains some of this funding. The Funding Navigator Program leverages IIJA opportunities for the Delaware Valley.
Building municipalities’ and utilities’ capacity to apply for state and federal funds for projects that address community priorities is central to meeting this challenge. The State Revolving Funds (SRFs) are the largest federal programs that finance water infrastructure, through the Drinking Water SRF and the Clean Water SRF. The Greater Philadelphia area is the most populous part of Pennsylvania, with some of the oldest infrastructure, but research from EPIC indicates that only a small percentage of water systems in both the DRB in Pennsylvania and the DRB in New Jersey have received Drinking Water SRF funds in the past decade. EPIC’s analysis over the same time frame indicates that only a fractional amount of the SRF funding reaches socially and economically distressed communities, which historically have the most pressing infrastructure needs. Funds from the BIL will significantly increase investment in water infrastructure through 2026. In federal FY 2022, Pennsylvania will receive $240 million and New Jersey will receive $169 million for their SRF programs. This is an increase of $143 million and $85 million respectively. Furthermore, Congress is requiring states to award 49% of the SRF funds from the BIL as principal forgiveness to disadvantaged communities, enabling communities that cannot take on debt to invest in infrastructure.
Yet, there are numerous and significant barriers to overcome to successfully access public funds to finance water infrastructure. Utilities must assess needs, develop capital plans, find programs to finance projects, and apply for funds to finance projects. Applications to the SRFs (through which states distribute federal funds) require technical components such as engineering designs, environmental impact assessments and financial studies to name a few, all of which are complicated and costly to produce.
How the Funding Navigator will help: DVRPC and our partners at EPIC are building the Funding Navigator program to help municipalities and utilities, especially those serving disadvantaged communities, seek and secure SRFs and other available funding
The time is now to take advantage of these funds to drive implementation of holistic, community-driven, multi-benefit solutions to aging infrastructure, emerging contaminants, and climate challenges in the DRB. The goal is to maximize benefits to the Delaware Valley region by ensuring local governments and utilities apply to fund projects that improve infrastructure, water quality and public health. Working in close partnership with other nonprofit organizations, community-based organizations (CBOs), and others, the Navigator team will use their expertise in funding and finance, water systems, technical assistance and community engagement to recruit municipalities and utilities, identify problems, match municipalities/utilities with technical assistance (TA) providers, and help complete and manage applications.
The Funding Navigator is a team of experts from multiple organizations working collaboratively to create the greatest impact. The team includes principal partners, place-based partners, and TA providers. The principal partners–Anthropocene Alliance (A2), Greenprint Partners (Greenprint), Moonshot Missions (Moonshot), and Southwest Environmental Finance Center (SWEFC)–have extensive experience working with utilities and communities on water infrastructure projects. The place-based partners–DVRPC and NJF-have strong relationships with communities and utilities as well as a proven track record of advancing equity and resilience.
EPIC will manage the overall project and grant from the WPF, as well as the sub-grants with place-based partners (DVRPC and NJF) and the contracts with TA providers. DVRPC has long established relationships with Delaware River Basin communities and will conduct outreach to facilitate partnerships with local governments and utilities ripe to engage on funding applications. Funding Navigator staff will coordinate with EPIC, community based organizations, TA providers and funding programs to diagnose and prioritize problems, support project development, and help secure funding for water infrastructure improvements.
2023 Report on Accessing Funding for Water System Improvements
This report, "Funding Improvements to Water Infrastructure - A Reconnaissance Study on Challenges and Opportunities in Southeastern Pennsylvania", investigates how municipalities and utilities currently approach infrastructure needs and funding programs, asking why they choose to pursue certain programs and how access to funds for infrastructure improvements could be improved.
For more information:
If you are interested in a one-on-one consultation to see how the Funding Navigator Program can assist your municipality or utility, please fill out the brief google form below and we will respond shortly to set up a meeting.