EPA’s Office of Water recently issued guidance on the Implementation of the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund Provisions of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The memorandum itself is eight pages long and covers a range of issues, including reiterating the inherent flexibility in state revolving fund programs, which allows states to prioritize the use of federal funds based on local water needs. The guidance also encourages agencies to prioritize increasing investment in disadvantaged communities, while using the funding to address emerging contaminants, replace lead lines, and improve the climate resilience of water infrastructure. Additionally, the guidance promotes investment in America’s water workforce — a frequently overlooked priority initiated in the prior administration that is designed to shore up an essential but aging water sector workforce.
In the guidance, EPA explains that, for state revolving fund recipients, Buy America provisions now include construction materials and manufactured goods, in addition to American iron and steel requirements that have been implemented by the agency since 2014. More importantly, “EPA will develop appropriate waivers and processes to facilitate a smooth transition to these expanded requirements,” as many entities in the domestic water market have signaled concerns with the potential tension between the expanded Buy America provisions and the surge in federal infrastructure funds that will be deployed over the next few years. The Office of Management and Budget is also expected to release program guidance for federal agency implementation of these new provisions and, thereafter, EPA will issue additional program guidance for water infrastructure spending.