Stone Soup approach to water-wastewater infrastructure funding
‘Stone Soup’, a well-known parable, teaches the lesson of individuals combining resources to create something good for the community. It is a great analogy for underfunded water-wastewater infrastructure projects where a ‘stone soup’ approach is needed and multiple stakeholders must all put something in the pot.
A ‘stone soup’ approach requires a champion who can find creative ways to engage partners and communicate the benefit of cooperation. An engineer skilled in managing grant-funded projects is well equipped to serve as the owner’s agent to get projects funded that might not otherwise get built.
Success requires consistent messaging around project goals and an initial source of funds to serve as the ‘stone that starts the soup’.
Capital Improvement Project and State Revolving Funds
Generally, capital improvement project funds serve as an initial source of funding. However, CIP budgets are often insufficient and must be enhanced with other funding.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Act supports state revolving fund programs that provide low interest loans for clean water and drinking water projects. At Mead & Hunt, we stay current with how various states manage their SRF programs, help clients understand the advantages of SRF and how the funds benefit everyone.
I believe the SRF program sells itself. It is a reliable, predictable and flexible funding source. SRF is a revenue source for the owner’s portion of cost share grants when matching funds are required. It can serve as a line of credit that guarantees financing while other sources are pursued to reduce the principal amount of the loan.
There are misconceptions that have prevented many utilities from participating in the past. My team works with clients to share how the program works with community leaders, teaching staff how to follow SRF guidelines and making the process easy for borrowers.
Environmental Grant Programs
Federal, state and local agencies have grant programs that can fund environmental initiatives. In many instances, these require a local match such as CIP funds and loans. We help clients stay on top of opportunities by establishing relationships with the personnel that manage grant programs, tracking application schedules and understanding ranking criteria are the first ingredients for successful applications.
In some cases clients want to manage the process themselves, so we share our expertise. We teach public works staff how to prepare applications and encourage them to communicate directly with agency personnel. This group effort is also part of the ‘stone soup’ recipe.
Not all grant applications are successful. If not, then we often recommend a “let it simmer” approach by postponing the project until the next grant cycle. This gives us time to learn why the project fell short and make changes to earn higher scores next time.
Stone Soup combines funding options with great applications
My closing message – and maybe the most important – is this: good, cost effective projects get funded. Many times, this requires more than one funding source.
An engineer who is well informed about funding is the ideal candidate to serve as the owner’s agent for funding assistance.
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