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Environmental Blog

  • 20
  • March
  • 2014

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Florida Funds $27 Million in Water Projects, Texas Soon to Follow

Last week, Florida Governor Rick Scott and the secretary of Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection, Herschel Vinyard, announced an investment of $27 million to fund upgrades to water infrastructure throughout the State. The money, taken from the Department’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund program, will finance both large and small projects, including, for instance, expanding a water reclamation facility in Orlando and replacing stormwater pipes in Cape Canaveral. The largest projects are slotted to receive $6 million each, with smaller projects receiving less than $200,000.

Created in 1989, the Clean Water State Revolving Fund program provides low-interest financing for the planning, design, and construction of wastewater and stormwater facilities in Florida. The State has funded nearly $4 billion-worth of projects through the program, including $1.4 billion for 96 projects within the past five years. Federal grants, state matching funds, loan repayments, interest earnings, and repayments from earlier loans fund the new loans. Texas’ newly created revolving loan fund for water infrastructure projects resembles Florida’s Clean Water Fund.

As we previously discussed, last November, Texas residents voted in favor of Proposition 6, which enables the use of $2 billion from Texas’ Rainy Day Fund to provide financing for water infrastructure projects in Texas. The $2 billion will be transferred into the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT), which in turn will create funding for the State Water Implementation Revenue Fund for Texas (SWIRFT). This fund is a revolving loan fund from which political subdivisions and nonprofit water supply corporations can apply to the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) for low interest loans for water infrastructure, conservation, and agriculture projects identified in the state water plan.

In a presentation at the Texas Water Conservation Association Annual Convention, held in The Woodlands, Texas, on March 5-7, 2014, Bech Bruun of TWDB shared recent developments in implementing SWIFT. Since Texas voters passed Proposition 6 on November 5, 2013, a stakeholders group submitted uniform standards to TWDB that all sixteen regional water planning groups will use to prioritize projects. The minimum criteria considered by the stakeholders committee include:

  • Decade in which project is needed
  • Feasibility of project
  • Viability of project
  • Sustainability
  • Cost effectiveness

The highest considerations for TWDB include:

  • Serve a large population
  • Assist a diverse urban and rural population
  • Provide regionalization
  • Meet high percentage of water users’ needs
  • Local financial contribution
  • Financial capacity of applicant to repay
  • Ability to leverage with local and federal funding
  • Emergency need for project
  • Readiness to proceed with project
  • Effect on water conservation
  • Priority given by regional water planning group

The TWDB intends to publish a draft SWIFT rule this summer and finalize the rule before the March 2015 deadline. The rule will likely refine the criteria for prioritizing projects listed above, define criteria for what qualifies as a rural project or conservation project, and lay out the administrative process for water districts. Meanwhile, water planning groups must submit a final prioritized list of regional projects by September 1, 2014. Under this timeframe, Texans should soon learn what water infrastructure and conservation/reuse projects are on the horizon.

1Sue Snyder, Theresa Romanosky, and Jennifer Cornejo, Future of Water Project Financing in Texas, Law360 (Feb. 3, 2014).

Posted at 3/20/2014 3:48 PM

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