Water infrastructure projects will be front and center in the months to come!

America’s water systems have languished for decades, and a day of reckoning is finally here. Throughout America, water infrastructure is in dire need of attention, repairs and immediate upgrades but that is about to change.

The inattention to critical water needs was never intentional, the problem was funding. There simply was never enough revenue to address the critical needs. That has all changed and now funding is abundant at both the federal, state and local levels of government. The current availability of funding is resulting in somewhat of a frantic rush to repair, upgrade and make water infrastructure in America sustainable.

Billions are available for water projects through federal programs alone. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill allocated $60 billion for water projects and that was only one piece of legislation. However, it provided $40 billion for drinking water projects and $20 billion for wastewater projects. Other federal legislation allocated billions more for water projects with funding channeled to existing federal agencies and/or existing grant programs.

Water quality and water resources for the future are significant national concerns and the barriers to repairs and upgrades have been eliminated. The Colorado River Basin will be home to the immediate launching of dozens of extremely large projects. The region provides water for more than 40 million Americans and provides hydropower resources for eight states. As a result, projects have been noted as priority initiatives and the outreach to private-sector contracting partners has already started.

Funding for water projects is available from numerous sources and government officials in other parts of the country are also launching large water infrastructure initiatives. Common water projects in design phases throughout the U.S. include conservation, reuse, desalination, storage and recycling efforts. Funding is also available for other types of water projects that focus on water conveyance, storage, hydropower generation and water pipeline replacements and expansions. There is a huge demand for contractors with capabilities to partner with public entities to launch these types of projects.

The federal government will invest a cumulative $50 billion in water infrastructure over the next several years. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) alone will invest about $8 billion in water projects this year but the cumulative amount of state and local funding for water projects is even greater. Legislatures throughout the U.S. have approved billions for water infrastructure funding and citizens at the local levels of government have also approved billions more through bond elections.

In Colorado, a $56 million award from the Department of the Interior will fund critical water infrastructure upgrades in the city of Leadville. The project includes construction of a new water treatment facility and an accompanying chemical storage building designed to treat chemical run-off from a nearby mining facility. A launch date is nearing, and solicitation documents will be issued to contracting partners soon.

Several local jurisdictions in Florida have partnered to plan and oversee construction of a new regional water system capable of distributing up to 12.5 million gallons of drinking water per day to communities throughout Polk County. The water infrastructure project will deliver a water production facility at a projected cost of $406 million. The project is currently in the design stage and when completed will be known as the Southeast Wellfield and Water Production Facility.

The state of California has announced plans to launch a $4.5 billion reservoir project in Colusa County. The water storage project will deliver a facility capable of holding 1.5 million acre-feet of water pumped from the Sacramento River. Other projects have been announced as well. Two dam expansions – one in Contra Costa County and another one in Santa Clara County – are being planned. Additionally, four groundwater projects have been approved. Citizens, businesses, developers, farmers and ranchers are all pushing officials to move quicker on launching all of the projects.

In early May 2023, voters in Danbury, Conn., approved a bond package authorizing $115 million to upgrade crucial components of an existing water system and begin upgrades to several water facilities. This large project will be designed to help the city comply with clean water standards and it will include the removal of lead pipes. Funding is also available for improvements to the Lake Kenosia well field, the West Lake and Margerie water treatment plants, a raw water supply system, a treated water distribution system and an existing water storage tank.

Officials in North Carolina’s Chatham County will invest $12 million to test a new water treatment process after finding contaminants in local water supplies. The pilot project will use activated carbon to treat the contaminants. A new regional water intake and treatment plant will also be constructed to serve several surrounding communities. This project carries a projected construction cost of $89 million.

It is currently almost impossible to find any region of the country without immediate plans to launch multiple types of water projects. The diversity of water needs will provide contracting opportunities not only for water companies but also for architectural, engineering, planning, technology, security, land work, equipment firms and others over the next several years. Most federal funding will require small and minority company participation and many local solicitations for large water projects will require or provide points to contractors with local subcontractors. Private sector investors will also be in high demand because a large percentage of the federal funding available to governments requires alternative funding to be consolidated with public allocations for projects. Investors will be rewarded in most cases with attractive tax benefits. Collaboration between public and private sector partners has been incentivized in numerous ways in federal grant programs.

The bottom line is this…America’s water infrastructure will be made ready for future decades over the next few years and the resulting economic stimulus will be felt throughout the country. It is a great time for private sector firms to bring all of the expertise and technology available to government officials who will be responsible for successful water reform initiatives.