By Roland Murphy for Arizona Builder’s Exchange
In its 2016 annual report, the Water Infrastructure Finance Authority of Arizona disclosed 38 WIFA-funded projects were completed around the state, including 27 drinking water and 11 wastewater projects for a combined total of nearly $108M.
This was a 25 percent increase in completed projects and nearly double the amount of money provided to communities for water infrastructure needs.
The authority also approved 15 new loans for nearly $118M to aid municipalities and private water companies. These were comprised of 11 drinking water loans ($65.7M) and four wastewater loans ($52.1M).
The largest drinking water loans were:
- City of Cottonwood: $16M for a well site, waterline construction and refinancing
- City of Peoria: $14M to acquire the New River utility
- Town of Payson: $11M for the CC Cragin water supply project, and
- Town of Clarkdale: nearly $7.9M for the Upper Town main replacement and refinance project.
A green project in Lake Havasu City, the Mulberry Effluent Basin expansion and refinance, took the lion’s share of wastewater loans at more than $60M.
Some sample projects the authority considers include storage tanks, meters, wells, contamination treatment systems, water and sewer distribution line replacement, wastewater facilities and reclaimed water projects.
WIFA was created by the state legislature in 1989 to maintain and improve water quality by financing construction, rehabilitation and water improvement projects.
Other FY 2016 achievements listed in the report include:
- Improved procurement processes
- Achieving an average of less than one week processing time for loan documents
- Processing of nearly $133M in disbursements, with a five business day average processing time
- Provision of $52M in funding for maintenance or compliance achievement funds, and
- $40M in financing for eight disadvantaged community projects, with $3M in forgivable principal.
Nearly 75 percent of the authorities drinking water loans were provided to small and rural communities serving fewer than 10,000 people. Seventy-five percent of its new clean water loans for wastewater projects were issued to communities of fewer than 50,000.
WIFA maintained its “AAA” credit rating from Moody’s, Standard and Poor’s, and Fitch. The authority balances the needs of low-credit borrows with high-credit borrowers to maintain a diverse portfolio. It had a total of nearly $388M invested at the close of the fiscal year. Lake Havasu City prepaid various loans amounting to nearly $221M, which enabled the authority’s significantly increased total over FY 2015.
The authority provides low-interest aid via the Clean Water Fund for publicly-held wastewater treatment facilities and through the Drinking Water Revolving fund for publicly- and privately-held drinking water systems. Those funds were created by the federal Environmental Protection Agency and are financed through federal grants, state matching funds, loan repayments and WIFA bond proceeds.
Projects of the Year
The report also named WIFA’s two projects of the year.
The first award went to the City of Bisbee for adding a 400kW solar system to produce energy for its San Jose Wastewater Treatment Plant. The $1.6M installation provides 87 percent of the electricity needed to run the plant and saves the city nearly $100K per year.
The second went to Sunrise Water Company for its $755K arsenic treatment, booster pumps and storage tank project, which improved its production and storage and helped to ensure customers are protected from water outages in the peak summer season.
In addition to its loan efforts, WIFA also provides funding for planning and design technical assistance. Annual funding awards are made to eligible water systems for projects’ planning and design phases. Awards are capped at $35K per year and cover services such as studies, audits, capital improvement plan formation, and environmental plans and assessments.
Ten awards were made under the program in FY 2016 for a total of more than $304K.