The next five years will be the Golden Age for wastewater management on Cape Cod.

As you no doubt know, President Biden recently signed a federal infrastructure funding bill into law. Of the many areas of interest to Cape Cod towns is the infusion of additional water infrastructure funds. It is important to note that the law uses existing formula-based programs to allocate funds to the states for projects. In this instance that means the bulk of assistance—$11 billion nationally for water and wastewater projects of which roughly $1 billion over five years will come to Massachusetts—will come through the State Revolving Fund (SRF) managed by the Massachusetts Clean Water Trust and MassDEP. SRF funds go to towns that propose water projects that compete on a statewide basis for funding. The extra $1 billion will end up supporting more than $1 billion in projects because Massachusetts leverages federal funds through the bond markets and uses the bond proceeds to fund projects.

The infrastructure law mandates that 51 percent of the funds support loans and 49 percent be used for principal forgiveness (i.e. it will be the equivalent of a grant) on an aggregate basis. It remains to be determined how much forgiveness will apply to individual projects and so the exact amount of forgiveness is not yet known. The new principal forgiveness will be in addition to what is provided to the Cape SRF towns from the Cape and Islands Water Protection Fund, all of which means projects proposed and financed over the next five years that obtain SRF loans almost assuredly will see subsidies greater than 25 percent.

Now is the time where all the planets have aligned. State and federal funds, and a lot of them, have finally been made available to Cape towns, a decade of state special legislation has created the opportunity for 0 percent loans, the Cape and Islands Water Protection Fund and other new financing tools. Towns generally have sufficiently developed plans to know what needs to be done and what needs to be built to improve water quality. The public knows we have a problem and overwhelmingly supports investment in water quality improvements.

As a region we have a chance to make transformational investments in water quality and reverse decades of water quality decline. Contact your town leaders to make sure this issue is at the top of their agenda in 2022. And 2023. And 2024, and until we achieve our water quality (teaser hint here–our State of the Waters 2021 report will be out soon, and things are not yet getting better). No more excuses. Let’s get this job done and done now.