The Federal Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs Survey and Assessment, which is revised every four years, concluded that the country's 53,000 community water systems and 21,400 not-for-profit, noncommunity water systems will need to invest an estimated $334.8 billion between 2007 and 2027.
Gloucester is one of the Massachusetts towns and communities eligible for $1.3 billion in grants and low-interest loans to upgrade outdated drinking water and sewage systems. The Massachusetts Clean Water Trust is a state agency that works to improve water quality throughout the Commonwealth by giving low-interest loans to towns and other qualified entities. The funds will be distributed through the state's Clean Water Revolving Trust Fund. The Trust assists communities with the construction or replacement of water infrastructure that improves ground and surface water resources, ensures the safety of drinking water, safeguards the public's health, and fosters the development of resilient communities. This work is done in partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). It achieves these goals by giving grants and low-interest loans to cities, villages, and water utilities via the Massachusetts State Revolving Funds (SRFs).
The trust will assist in funding 183 projects that aim to improve water quality, update or replace aging drinking water and sewer infrastructure, and manage assets by providing low-interest loans and grants. These include $100 million from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) in 2022 and almost $189 million in extra financing that Massachusetts anticipates receiving from the federal government through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL).
The funding for water projects will be allocated through a competitive loan program, which is an important feature of the bill. The Commonwealth will issue enticing low-interest loans with the potential for grants and principal forgiveness using BIL funds. However, before being considered for a loan, any local water project must first perform well enough in a competitive process. Projects that are determined to be eligible must next show that they have local support before applying.
With this competitive process, many of the underserved communities will be counted out of the running for this funding. Additionally, many of those communities do not have the funds to repay the loans. With interest rates increasing as well as project costs increasing between the time of the bid and construction due to current supply chain problems, inflation, etc. many of the required projects will not have funding despite the BIL.
According to a 2012 analysis by the Massachusetts Water Infrastructure Finance Commission, there is a projected $21.4 billion funding deficit for water and wastewater infrastructure over a 20-year period. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's other assessment, which was finished in 2018, found that the state will need to invest $12.2 billion in drinking water alone over the next 20 years. The BIL is an important first step, but more work remains.