The Water Infrastructure Funding Navigator: Securing Equitable Investment for Overburdened Communities of the Delaware Valley
Denise Schmidt: Environmental Policy Innovation Center
Stephen Barr: Environmental Policy Innovation Center
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), also referred to as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), includes nearly $50 billion to invest in water infrastructure over the next 5 years. This significant federal investment in water services–the largest since the construction grants program in the 1970s–has the potential to deliver profound benefits to the environment, economic development, and public health.
State and federal funds are a crucial source of alternative financing for water systems. Systems that are unable to take on more debt or repay loans rely on grants. Ensuring overburdened communities have access to SRFs is critical to enhancing equity. The problem is that many overburdened communities struggle to access federal funds. For example, State Revolving Funds (SRFs)–which will be used to allocate over 80 percent of the IIJA funding for water infrastructure–have not been equitably distributed:
● Between 2011 and 2020, only 10 percent of drinking water systems received SRF funds.
● Less than 25 percent of the SRF funds reached disadvantaged communities.
● Small and racially diverse communities are less likely to access SRFs.
The Environmental Policy Innovation Center (EPIC) seeks to advance equity and resilience by providing technical assistance to local governments, utilities, tribes, and non-governmental organizations to apply for public funds for infrastructure, including the historic investment available through the IIJA. EPIC’s Funding Navigator Program will ensure more overburdened communities benefit from government investments in safe and climate-resilient drinking water, wastewater treatment, and stormwater management. The program brings together a diverse team of professionals to work with utilities and community-based organizations to analyze infrastructure conditions, create a strategy to access financing and technical assistance, design community-centered projects, and apply for public funds. Complementing efforts at the national, state, and local level to advance environmental justice and resilience, the Funding Navigator will engage community members and front-line organizations in transparent, inclusive, and collaborative infrastructure improvement planning and development. This presentation will walk through the roles and responsibilities of Funding Navigator partners and stakeholders, the process, and the expected outcomes.
Denise Schmidt - Denise Schmidt is Director of EPIC’s Funding Navigator, a program to ensure many more water utilities that serve overburdened communities receive state and federal funds for water infrastructure. Denise has over 30 years of experience working with utilities, local, state, and federal agencies, technical assistance providers, and nonprofit organizations. Prior to joining EPIC, Denise was the Administrator of the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin’s Division of Water Utility Regulation and Analysis. Her work on outreach to financially troubled utilities, lead service line replacement, conservation and efficiency, utility staff and stakeholder training, workforce diversity, and other programs helped ensure that the state’s public water utilities have the capacity to provide safe, reliable, affordable, equitable, and environmentally responsible service. Denise has served in various professional and volunteer roles, including staff member and decision maker at the local and regional level, private consultant, instructor at Michigan State University’s Institute of Public Utilities, and leadership positions in state and national water industry organizations. She has a master’s degree from Harvard’s Kennedy School and a bachelor’s degree from Purdue University.
Stephen Barr - Steve joined EPIC in 2022 as the National Funding Navigator Manager and works primarily on technical assistance provision in the development of water infrastructure projects for overburdened communities. Prior to joining EPIC, he worked for the American Water Works Association on the Community Engineering Corps program managing volunteer engineering assistance for small and disadvantaged community infrastructure projects. Steve has experience in the international development and environmental engineering industries, having received his B.Sc. in Environmental Engineering from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and his M.Sc. in Science, Technology, and International Development from the University of Edinburgh.
This seminar does qualify for 1.0 Professional Development Hour (PDH). A Certificate of Attendance will be available for AWRA-PMAS members only. The meeting price for non-members who wish to receive a Certificate of Attendance for the PDH is $10.00 ($3.00 for meeting + $7.00 for certificate).
Please note: Presentation is to be given through Zoom at the link below. PDH's will be issued through PDFs. Please allow extra time to register through Zoom and get software set up. Presentation will start at noon. Early participants will be in a Waiting Room until noon. Participants must email AWRA.PMAS@gmail.com to request PDH Certificate after the event.
Presentation link will be provided in registration reminder email. Zoom link should only be used by those who register for the event through AWRA directly.