EPA Updates WIFIA Loan, Saving More Money for Orange County Ratepayers
Fountain Valley, Calif. (September 3, 2020) — Today, at an event with the Orange County Water District (OCWD), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced an update to the district’s Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan. This action lowers the WIFIA loan’s interest rate, saving ratepayers an additional $79.4 million and bringing the total savings for this community to $95.4 million over the life of the loan.
“This cost-saving update not only saves ratepayers money, it shows EPA’s ongoing commitment to investments in water infrastructure that improve water quality and secure sustainable water supplies for Orange County,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Through WIFIA, EPA is playing a critical role in President Trump’s efforts to upgrade infrastructure and benefit communities across this country.”
“By updating its WIFIA loan with EPA, the OCWD will save millions in interest rates while providing an additional local drinking water supply for Orange County residents,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator John Busterud. “EPA is proud to continue supporting OCWD as it upgrades water infrastructure, ensuring the community can be more resilient during periods of drought.”
“The WIFIA program is a vital tool that supports the financing of our nation’s public water infrastructure and OCWD has been a proud recipient of this funding to implement the final expansion of our Groundwater Replenishment System, the world’s largest potable reuse project,” said OCWD President Vicente Sarmiento.
WIFIA provides financial support at a critical time as the federal government, EPA, and the water sector work together to help mitigate the public health and financial impacts of COVID-19. Since the beginning of March 2020, the WIFIA program has closed ten loans and updated three existing loans with lower interest rates. These recent efforts will save ratepayers over $1 billion compared to typical bond financing. Since the program’s inception, EPA has issued 26 WIFIA loans totaling $5.6 billion in credit assistance to help finance $12.4 billion for water infrastructure projects while saving ratepayers $2.6 billion over traditional financing tools and creating 26,000 jobs.
In August 2018, EPA announced the closing of a $135 million WIFIA loan to the Orange County Water District to help finance its $282 million Groundwater Replenishment System final expansion. This project will purify treated wastewater from the Orange County Sanitation District to produce an additional 30 million gallons per day of drinking water, which will be stored in the Orange County Groundwater Basin. This additional drought-proof drinking water supply reduces the region’s need to import water, benefits the environment through reduced discharges into the ocean, and increases replenishment of the local groundwater source.
The sustainability, security and resiliency benefits of this project highlight EPA’s commitments under the National Water Reuse Action Plan. The Action Plan frames the business case that water reuse is a viable and growing means of supporting our economy and improving the availability of freshwater for farmers, industry, communities, and ecosystems. The Action Plan identifies 37 specific actions across 11 strategic themes, including highlighting the potential for WIFIA to help finance water reuse projects.
Established by the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act of 2014, the WIFIA program is a federal loan and guarantee program administered by EPA. WIFIA’s aim is to accelerate investment in the nation’s water infrastructure by providing long-term and low-cost supplemental credit assistance for regionally and nationally significant projects. EPA’s WIFIA program plays an important part in President Trump’s infrastructure plan, which calls for expanding project eligibility. 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 is currently accepting Letters of Interest for FY 2020. Approximately $5 billion in financing is available. For more information about the FY 2020 selection process, visit: https://www.epa.gov/wifia/wifia-funding-currently-available.
For more information about the WIFIA program, visit: https://www.epa.gov/wifia.