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One-time influx of federal dollars to help communities shore up aging water systems, protect the Great Lakes

Lead service line replacement excavation in Benton Harbor in June 2022.Michigan has made tremendous strides in water stewardship over the last several decades. Sewage overflow events into waterways have declined 83% percent since 1988, dangerous lead water service lines are coming out of the ground due to the state's most-protective-in-the-nation Lead & Copper Rule, and Michigan is among the nation's leaders in regulating the dangerous emerging contaminant PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances).

New funding this year will give an additional boost to communities working to shore up aging water infrastructure, but the needs still far outstrip the dollars available for this critical work.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has directed roughly $1.9 billion to be funneled to communities later this year and throughout 2023.  The one-time federal influx provided through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and the Infrastructure Investment Jobs Act (IIJA) was authorized recently with the passage of Michigan's Public Act 53. It allocates $4.7B in total infrastructure funding including the $1.9 billion for water system improvements administered by EGLE through loans and grants to local water systems.

This influx of one-time federal funding complements the $90 million to $100 million provided annually by EPA through two existing revolving funds. The goal is to assist communities in addressing critical infrastructure improvements that will continue to protect the environment and public health.

Information on available funding and how communities may apply is included in our Water Infrastructure Investments overview.

The federal influx has Michigan communities excited. More than $2.8 billion has been requested by communities in 2022 alone for water infrastructure funding, more than triple previous years' requests.

Still, the largess pales in comparison to the state's needs. Michigan has “…an $800 million annual gap (emphasis ours) in water and sewer infrastructure needs, compiled from decades of deferred maintenance and lack of knowledge on the condition of our water-related assets' according to the state's 21st Century Infrastructure Report.

And the need is great in Michigan, where the American Society of Civil Engineers grades Michigan's infrastructure conditions between a C and D letter grade.

To access funding provided through IIJA, ARPA or regular federal funding, EGLE encourages communities to submit an Intent to Apply (ITA) form by the Nov. 1 deadline. Applications are encouraged as soon as communities are ready, no need to wait for the deadline. Learn more about how to apply through some of the recorded sessions from the Great Lakes Water Infrastructure Conference.

These ITA forms can be found on the program websites that will administer the funds as detailed below:

  • The Drinking Water State Revolving Fund: Federal dollars administered by EGLE helping local communities with projects including lead water service line replacement, treatment plant upgrades and distribution system improvements among others. Some 345 projects have received $1.5 billion since 1998.
  • The Clean Water State Revolving Fund: Federal money administered by EGLE for community projects including wastewater treatment upgrades and elimination of combined sewer system overflows, pumping station improvements, and non-point source pollution projects to reduce nutrient and contaminant runoff to waterways. Some $5.4 billion has financed 642 projects since 1988.

Michigan has a unique role amid the world’s greatest freshwater ecosystem, and the infrastructure dollars will help protect and enhance Great Lakes waters.

“The new federal assistance is a great start toward helping communities address backlogged water system needs,” said Liesl Clark, EGLE director. “But this is a marathon, not a sprint. Michigan EGLE and our partners are committed to partnering with our communities in the coming years to ensure that Michiganders’ health and their environment have the best protections possible.”

Caption: Lead service line replacement excavation in Benton Harbor in June 2022.