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New Funding for Our Municipal Water Infrastructure: What It Means

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  • Digital Team 

Significant improvements in water infrastructure that many miss

Epic water infrastructure upgrades are unfolding right beneath our noses, often unnoticed. As communities face an increasingly complex web of water challenges, a transformative shift is taking place in the realm of water treatment and water management.

The transformation has been accelerated by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, formally entitled the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. As a result of the Act, the Environmental Protection Agency has allocated over $9 billion to states, tribes, and territories during the 2022-2023 fiscal year to fund comprehensive enhancements of water infrastructure.

The enhancements affect everything from networks of sewers, pipes, and service lines to the problem of ensuring lead-free drinking water and the risk of contamination posed by harmful chemicals like perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The goals of the new law include providing equitable access to safe and clean water and making the provision of water more sustainable over the long run.

High Impact, Low Profile

You can’t build municipal water infrastructure overnight, and it is often located at the edge of town — out of sight, out of mind. Although signage may proclaim a construction project, the people likely to be helped the most by it may well drive by without ever noticing their tax dollars at work.

Also helping to explain the relatively low profile of the new infrastructure law is the fact that most of us tend to take the availability of water for granted.

Meanwhile, skeptics of the spending wonder whether the allocated funds will reach intended projects or be diverted by congressional earmarks. Amidst these considerations and the notable absence of significant media coverage, the innovative endeavors set in motion by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law have maintained a relatively modest profile. 

Despite such factors, a variety of ambitious water infrastructure projects are making steady progress throughout the country, poised to redefine water infrastructure and its pivotal role in our daily lives.

Infrastructure Law Water Infrastructure Upgrades

For example, here in upstate New York, we’ve received $270 million in federal funding to undertake upgrades in drinking water infrastructure. Among the beneficiaries will be three Albany water system plants, the Feura Bush Filter Plant, the Pine Bush Pump Station, and the Loudonville Reservoir.

In Northern California, two large storage and conveyance projects are being funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Receiving $30 million, the Sites Reservoir will finally be getting an off-stream reservoir (in development for some sixty years) that does not impede fish migration. The Los Vaqueros Reservoir will receive $10 million.

According to California Representative Mike Thompson, the funding for Sites and Los Vaqueros “will help provide our families, farmers, and communities with the water resources we need to combat drought and live healthy lives.”

In South Dakota, the EPA is providing $248,000 to smaller communities with scant access to capital to help them build stormwater and wastewater infrastructure to prevent storms from inundating wastewater plants and contaminating drinking water.

Iowa is getting $5.1 billion, about $1,593 per capita, as a result of the new law. Most of the money is for highways. But 12.6%, or about $643 million, will fund water infrastructure.

Also, the Army Corps of Engineers will spend $200 million on the environmental infrastructure of 26 states and three tribes to upgrade wastewater infrastructure and develop other water-related projects.

Innovative Water and Wastewater Treatment Technologies Follow

Amidst the tangible impacts of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law on water infrastructure, a less-recognized yet crucial dimension is the incorporation of cutting-edge technology. The convergence of digital innovation with water management has been a game-changer, enabling utilities to monitor and optimize their systems with unprecedented precision. Smart sensors, real-time data analytics, and predictive modeling are revolutionizing how water is sourced, treated, and distributed.

One remarkable application is the implementation of advanced leak detection systems. These systems utilize acoustic sensors and machine learning algorithms to pinpoint leaks in water pipelines, reducing water loss and conserving a precious resource. In addition, integrated weather forecasting and demand prediction tools are facilitating more adaptive water supply management, enabling utilities to respond proactively to changing conditions and minimize disruptions.

Moreover, digital twin technology—a virtual replica of physical water infrastructure—is streamlining maintenance and operations. By simulating various scenarios, engineers and operators can identify vulnerabilities, optimize maintenance schedules, and develop rapid response strategies in a risk-free virtual environment. This not only enhances the reliability of water systems but also prolongs their lifespan, contributing to the long-term sustainability of our water infrastructure.

As these transformative technologies become increasingly integrated into the fabric of water infrastructure in New York and across the nation, the unobtrusive nature of these changes belies their monumental significance. The upgrades funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law are not merely bricks and mortar; they are the building blocks of resilience, environmental protection, and equitable access to clean water for generations to come. While headlines may capture attention momentarily, it’s in the steady hum of these advancements that the true promise of a safer, more sustainable water future quietly unfolds.

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