Commissioner's Column: Charlestown drinking water project first to receive ARPA grant funding

Date: May 06, 2022

In New Hampshire, the need for water and wastewater infrastructure investment far outpaces the availability of funds. In the 2021 solicitation for state revolving loan funds (SRF), NHDES received over $1 billion of planned project funding requests.  This staggering need for infrastructure funding does not even include mitigating the risk posed by decrepit and failing culverts, funds required for planning or necessary system improvements such as cybersecurity.

Federal funding totaling $150 million from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) has been made available to NHDES by the Legislature and Governor and Executive Council to fund water infrastructure. ARPA is a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill intended to speed up the United States’ recovery from the economic health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and help head off the resultant recession. The Act defines eligible uses of the state and local funding, including responding to public health emergencies and workers performing essential work during the COVID-19 emergency, providing revenue relief to states and of particular note for us, making investments in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure. 

In the development of the ARPA funding programs, NHDES focused on supplementing existing Drinking Water SRF (DWSRF) and Clean Water SRF (CWSRF) programs and created several new programs to utilize all available infrastructure funding to meet the known demand and growing needs in the state. These programs include:

  • Directing supplemental funding for drinking water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure projects identified through the 2021 solicitation for the DWSRF and CWSRF programs.
  • Creating a 100% grant program to target assistance to resident-owned communities/manufactured-home cooperatives (COOPS) in need of necessary comprehensive drinking water and wastewater system improvements.  
  • Supporting the expansion or creation of planning, long-term sustainability (asset management, energy audit measure implementation, water audit measure implementation) and cybersecurity implementation grant programs.
  • Creating a critical flood-risk projects grant program to support flood resilience and stormwater management planning and assessment projects.
  • Supporting the PFAS Remediation Loan Fund with the creation of an ARPA funding grant component.

NHDES is excited to announce that the first ARPA-funded infrastructure project received final approval by Governor Chris Sununu and the Executive Council at their meeting on March 23.  The approval was for a combination ARPA and DWSRF loan funds totaling $4,289,000 for a drinking water project in the Town of Charlestown. The funds will be used to make water system improvements, including completing the interconnection of the Charlestown Water System (CWS) and the North Charlestown Water System (NCWS) to address arsenic exceedances in wells serving the NCWS. The project will also include the construction of a booster pump station to address low-pressure areas within the existing NCWS. By interconnecting the two systems, the users of these systems will have improved water quality and reliability.

As of April 2022, NHDES had offered more than $100 million in ARPA grants to 230 projects.

These potential grant recipients are currently working to submit final project paperwork to NHDES for submission and approval by the Governor and Executive Council.  

If your community is evaluating funding options for water system projects, whether they are at the planning phase, construction or looking to improve long-term system management, there is still ARPA funding available to support whichever phase the project is in. NHDES is currently soliciting for the cybersecurity implementation program, and the 2022 DWSRF and CWSRF programs are actively soliciting applications now, due by June 1. This includes Clean Water planning, asset management, and energy audit programs, and the first dedicated solicitation for the Assistance for Disadvantaged Communities grant program.

For more information regarding infrastructure funding programs such as ARPA, please visit the NHDES Infrastructure Funding website.

In New Hampshire, the need for water and wastewater infrastructure investment far outpaces the availability of funds. In the 2021 solicitation for state revolving loan funds (SRF), NHDES received over $1 billion of planned project funding requests. This staggering need for infrastructure funding does not even include mitigating the risk posed by decrepit and failing culverts, funds required for planning or necessary system improvements such as cybersecurity.