If you are a small water system in Delaware and you’re looking for funding options, consider the Delaware Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF). This program recently received an influx of federal money and is looking to fund systems like yours in need of financial support to maintain or improve their drinking water systems.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), also known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021, was signed by President Biden on November 15, 2021. The BIL allocates $50 billion over five years to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to strengthen the nation’s drinking water and wastewater systems. Federal grants are allocated to the states and territories through each one’s Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) offices. There are three grants available for DWSRFs under the BIL: General Supplemental, Lead Service Line Replacement, and Emerging Contaminants. State-by-state allotments can be found on EPA’s website.
Delaware DWSRF Process
Delaware’s public water systems can apply for any of the transformational new loan opportunities through DWSRF. First, you will need to submit a Notice of Intent (NOI) to DHSS_DPH_DWSRF@Delaware.gov during the 30-day solicitation period that occurs every February. NOI solicitation periods are advertised on the DWSRF webpage. A project description is required to be submitted as supporting documentation to the NOI. It is important that the project description is specific and lists all project outcomes in order to receive the corresponding points listed on the NOI.
Potential borrowers can utilize the Ranking Criteria document to determine how many points their NOI will receive. These points determine how a project will rank on the Project Priority List (PPL). Projects must be listed on the PPL to receive funding. Delaware’s DWSRF is able to fund every project listed on the PPL, as long as it aligns with eligibility requirements. The requirements can be found in the DWSRF Eligibility Handbook. Projects can be eligible for principal forgiveness, known as additional subsidy, if they meet disadvantaged criteria defined in Delaware’s Intended Use Plan. Typically, projects that are ranked higher on the PPL receive additional subsidy. This is because these projects have the most impactful public health and environmental benefit, and they receive the most points.
Once DWSRF receives all NOIs, they are ranked and placed into the PPL. The PPL is then posted on the DWSRF’s webpage for public comment for 30 days. After the public comment period, DWSRF solicits full applications during a 30-day window. Applications and the required supporting documents can be found here: https://dnrec.alpha.delaware.gov/environmental-finance/wpcrf-application. Depending on the borrower’s readiness to proceed, they can expect to enter loan closing within 4-12 months after submitting their full application. If you want to learn more about the application process, register for the virtual Funding Workshop that occurs in January every year.
To help community drinking water suppliers comply with a revision to the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR), Delaware’s Drinking Water State Revolving Fund is opening a second solicitation period for Lead Service Line projects at 0% interest. The solicitation period is September 15, 2023, to October 15, 2023, and provides another opportunity for communities to receive funding to develop a lead service line inventory by October 16, 2024. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established the LCR to protect public health and reduce exposure to lead and copper in drinking water from lead pipes and brass or bronze faucets and fixtures. Visit Revised Lead and Copper Rule | US EPA for more information about the Lead and Copper Rule Revision.
The State of Delaware offers numerous resources to public water systems serving less than 10,000 people. Delaware’s DWSRF partners with the Delaware Rural Water Association to provide technical assistance, training, and strategies to small and mid-size municipalities to maintain and return to compliance with state and federal regulations. Delaware’s DWSRF also partners with Delaware Technical Community College to provide operator education courses. For more information about the Delaware DWSRF, visit https://www.dhss.delaware.gov/dhss/dph/hsp/dwsrf.html or contact the office at 302-744-4817 or DHSS_DPH_DWSRF@Delaware.gov.
The EPA has designated The University of Maryland Environmental Finance Center (UMD EFC) a Regional Water Infrastructure Center for the mid-Atlantic, with the sole purpose of providing free technical assistance to communities in order to help the access BIL funding. UMD EFC has assembled a robust team of project partners to assist communities with this process, including Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project (SERCAP). Through its Delaware office, SERCAP will continue to provide training, technical, and financial assistance to rural communities, water and wastewater treatment facilities, public and private utilities, public service authorities, and planning district commissions to support water and wastewater infrastructure projects, community development, and economic development in Delaware. For more information about SERCAP, visit their website at https://sercap.org/about/locations/delaware.
The EFCN offers support for water systems that would like assistance in any part of applying for and managing DWSRF funds. Click the “Get Help” button at the top right of this webpage, fill out the short questionnaire, and one of our staff members in your region will reach out to you.
The University of Delaware’s Institute for Public Administration offers a Water Resources Center whose mission is to “foster and support training and education programs for the future water scientists, engineers, managers, and policy-makers who will lead the water resources research, planning, and management efforts in our state in the future.” More information can be found on their website at https://www.wrc.udel.edu/wrc-mission/.
Key Words: Drinking Water, Delaware Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, Lead Service Line Replacement, Emerging Contaminants, Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, Technical Assistance