Biden-Harris Administration Announces $70 Million WIFIA Loan to Advance Drought Resilience in Southern California
SAN FRANCISCO – Today, at an event in San Bernardino, California, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a $70 million Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan to San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District. This WIFIA funding will support an innovative regional partnership to help secure a drought-resilient water supply while supporting the long-term ecological health of the Upper Santa Ana River.
Since its creation, EPA’s WIFIA program has announced nearly $20 billion in financing to support over $43 billion in water infrastructure projects that are strengthening drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure while creating over 140,000 jobs.
“I applaud San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District for securing this $70 million WIFIA loan to recharge depleted groundwater basins and secure a climate-resilient water future,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox. “Upgrading water infrastructure is central to President Biden’s Investing in America Agenda. Through EPA’s WIFIA program and $50 billion under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, EPA is investing in communities across the country to address pressing local water challenges, like climate change, while creating family-supporting jobs.”
For many years, the San Bernardino Valley has been challenged by prolonged drought, increased wildfires, and climate uncertainty. In 2021, five Southern California water agencies came together to form the Watershed Connect program to improve water reliability in the drought-prone region. One project funded in part by a WIFIA loan is the Santa Ana River Enhanced Recharge Phase 1B, which will expand the existing groundwater basins to capture and recharge local stormwater. Additionally, a new regional recycled water pipeline will be constructed to convey the treated water for groundwater replenishment. At the completion of these projects, San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District and the Watershed Connect participating agencies will secure a reliable water source in times of drought by capturing up to 80,000 acre-feet of stormwater runoff and recharging up to 23,000 acre-feet of recycled water for future use from the local groundwater aquifer.
"Infrastructure projects of this magnitude require a complex collaboration between technical engineering, environmental stewardship, funding commitments, and regulatory approvals to address our region's water challenges,” said Paul Kielhold, San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District Board President. “The WIFIA loan is a symbol of progress in the realms of water supply reliability and environmental conservation.”
This is the second WIFIA loan to support the Watershed Connect program. EPA previously announced $81 million to the Yucaipa Valley Water District for other aspects of the program. In total, EPA has committed $216 million in WIFIA financing through master agreements. Through the regional Watershed Connect program, participating agencies will save approximately $47 million by financing with WIFIA loans while project construction and operation will create over 1,000 jobs.
Established by the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act of 2014, the WIFIA program is a federal loan program administered by EPA. The WIFIA program aims to accelerate investment in the nation’s water infrastructure by providing long-term, low-cost supplemental credit assistance for regionally and nationally significant projects. The WIFIA program has an active pipeline of pending applications for projects that will result in billions of dollars in water infrastructure investment and thousands of jobs.
EPA recently made the 7th round of WIFIA financing available and is currently accepting letters of interest for WIFIA and SWIFIA loans. $6.5 billion is available through WIFIA, and $1 billion is available through SWIFIA, which is a loan program exclusively for State infrastructure financing authority borrowers. Learn more about submitting a letter of interest for a WIFIA loan.
In addition to WIFIA loans, there are many federal funding resources available for communities and utilities to improve water infrastructure. President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is a once-in-a-generation investment in our nation’s infrastructure and competitiveness. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides a historic $50 billion investment in upgrading critical drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure.