Over the last decade, Ohio has seen a convergence of aging environmental infrastructure, rising construction costs, increased focus on asset management, strained local budgets for operations and maintenance, and rapidly increasing water and wastewater user charges for residential customers. Collectively, these forces call into question the affordability and sustainability of some water and wastewater systems, especially if there are opportunities for sharing services, interconnecting utilities and full regionalization.
In Ohio, the State Revolving Funds programs have been providing incentives, either through zero percent interest rate loans, or through principal forgiveness funds, for projects that involve regionalization of drinking water or wastewater facilities. For the Water Supply Revolving Loan Account (WSRLA), we estimate that roughly half of the $13.8 million available for principal forgiveness will go toward regionalization projects. The Water Pollution Control Loan Fund (WPCLF) is proposing to target approximately $15 million in principal forgiveness for projects that involve regionalizing wastewater collection and treatment. These incentives are generating interest from communities and public water systems across Ohio that see regionalization as an opportunity for more affordable and sustainable utilities, as well as being better positioned for potential economic growth.
Ohio EPA recognizes that physical consolidation of water and wastewater facilities is not always possible – some locations have constraints with long distances or steep terrain that make regionalization cost-prohibitive. In those cases, Ohio EPA will continue to work with these communities and the existing infrastructure. However, where regionalization is possible, and the local entities are voluntarily looking to regionalize or consolidate, Ohio EPA will support their efforts and provide financial incentives to help reduce the up-front costs. For more information, please contact Jon Bernstein at firstname.lastname@example.org or (614) 644-3715.