WATERSHED CONNECT has been invited to apply for a Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). WATERSHED CONNECT is one of 39 new projects in the nation invited by the EPA to apply for approximately $6.7 billion in WIFIA loan funding.
The WATERSHED CONNECT program evolved out of the need for an interconnected and coordinated water infrastructure system in a region that sees, on average, less than 15 inches of rain per year.
Collectively WATERSHED CONNECT will capture over 38,000-acre feet per year of stormwater runoff, produce and distribute over 25,000 AFY of recycled water for groundwater recharge, restore and protect hundreds of acres of native habitat and open space, and generate over 1,300 kW of renewable energy across the Upper Santa Ana River Watershed.
“It’s one thing to have a vision of building a project portfolio that provides water supply reliability in the long term; it’s another thing to secure funding to construct these projects. That’s where the EPA WIFIA funding becomes so important – it provides low-cost financing with favorable payback terms and flexibility,” commented Paul Kielhold, Chair of the program’s newly formed Joint Powers Authority and President of the San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District. “This type of loan program allows us to think beyond ‘project-by-project’ to a more comprehensive system of water infrastructure.”
WATERSHED CONNECT and the Upper Santa Ana River Watershed Infrastructure Financing Authority (Upper SAR WIFA) were developed in the Summer of 2021, following the EPA’s announcement of additional funding. While agencies often spend a year or more preparing to apply for EPA WIFIA funding, WATERSHED CONNECT came together in just under 10 weeks!
“The fact that we were able to generate so much support throughout the region in such a short period of time, tells us that this program is the right approach” shared Heather Dyer, CEO/General Manager of the San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District. “We’ve done the planning and designed the projects – now we are working on the smartest and most advantageous way to pay for them. WATERSHED CONNECT creates new opportunities for collaboration at a regional, state, and national level. We’re excited to see where this program takes us.”