Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Wednesday she will allocate $100 million of American Rescue Plan Act money to Iowa water infrastructure and water quality projects.
Most of it — $75 million — will fund a new grant program through the Iowa Finance Authority to support four priorities: Economically-significant projects, watershed protection projects, industrial water reuse pilot projects and wastewater infrastructure for communities without sewer systems.
The money “will support projects aimed at reducing excess nutrients, improving drought resiliency, reducing flood risks, improving public health, promoting reuse of water and wastewater and providing significant economic benefits to communities and the state,” according to a news release.
The Water Infrastructure Fund grant application process for this money will open Dec. 15.
The other $25 million will go to the Conservation Infrastructure Project within the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. That project has three working groups focused on conservation strategy, cover crops and drainage.
The money will “provide even more cost-share incentives for Iowa’s farmers and landowners to accelerate construction of conservation practices and improve water quality,” the news release stated.
Larry Weber, a University of Iowa professor of civil and environmental engineering and the Edwin B. Green chair in hydraulics, said he’s “delighted” about the governor’s announcement.
“We’re excited to participate in the proposal process with the ideas we have,” he said of the new grant program. “We recognize $100 million is important, but, as I’ve said before, our need is $10 billion. This is a small, but important, step on the pathway toward watershed improvement in the state.”
The Rescue Plan funding allocated to water project is on top of $110.7 million coming to Iowa from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, a bipartisan bill passed earlier this fall.
Iowa Department of Natural Resources officials said last week they expect $46 million of that money will be used to remove lead from drinking water. The remainder would pay for improvements to drinking water systems, wastewater projects and to address water contaminated by per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances — the so-called “forever chemicals.”
Iowa’s water quality has been a concern for years as nitrate and phosphorus wash from Iowa farm fields into streams, lakes and rivers and threaten drinking water. Iowa was among Midwest states that committed in 2008 to reducing excess nutrients by 45% — both to help the Gulf of Mexico, where nutrients have created a dead zone where wildlife can’t survive — and to protect the health and safety of Midwest waterways.