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Category Archives: Water Systems

NC DEQ: Water Resources Engineering Grants and Financial Assistance 101

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NC DEQ) plays a pivotal role in helping communities secure resources to develop robust water infrastructures and prepare for sustainable development. This article outlines two key grant programs offered by the NC DEQ that local governments and councils should not hesitate to take advantage of in 2024.

Additional Support In Applying for NC DEQ Water Resources Programs

Communities should look into resources available to help them apply for water supply and resources grants and assistance. Most grants have been assigned grant managers, responsible for supporting communities in submitting competitive grant applications.

Additionally, if a water supply engineering firm has been contracted to support the project, this resource can often directly support or find a resource to support with the grant writing and application process.

In some cases, such as the 9-Element Plan projects references in #2 below re: Water Quality Management Planning Grant, a special resource will be assigned. For these projects a Division of Water Resources support staff member is assigned to answer questions and advise during the process.

1. Water Resources Development Grant Program – State and Local Projects
The Water Resources Development Grant Program  is a NC DEQ program designed to provide cost-share grants and technical assistance to local governments. The State and Local Projects are those most likely to be applicable across a wider range of communities (vs. programs geared towards Coastal Communities, etc.), so we’ve broken just these State and Local water resources project types, qualifications and application components down below.

Applicable Projects:

  1. Water Management – Stormwater control measures, drainage, flood control, hydrologic restoration, etc.
  2. Water-Based Recreation – Greenways, Trails, Boardwalks; Paddle Access, Fishing Docks/Piers; land acquisition for water-based recreation sites operated by local governments.
  3. Stream Restoration – Restoration or stabilization of degraded streams & shorelines, aquatic barrier removals, etc.
  4. Feasibility / Engineering Studies – Towards implementation of one of the four eligible categories.
  5. Natural Resources Conservation Service Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) – Learn more here.

Eligibility: Units of local government and local political subdivisions. However, projects benefiting underserved communities within a Tier 1 County will be prioritized.

Application Deadlines: Two standard grant application cycles annually for all non-navigation projects. The Spring 2024 application cycle will begin January 2 and ends on June 30, 2024. The Fall application cycle will be announced at a later date and usually runs through the end of the year.

Funding: Applicants are generally encouraged to not exceed a $200,000 funding request, however larger awards may be granted on a case-by-case basis. The suggested limit is $50,000 for engineering/feasibility studies. Administrative costs should not exceed 10% of the total project budget.

Evaluation Criteria: This grant is weighted most heavily on environmental benefits (eg. protect a valuable resource area or enhance environmental resilience) and minimal negative environmental impacts to the project area or adjacent areas. This is followed by projects that will provide the most economic and social benefits to the area. Communities that are underserved or distressed will be prioritized for selection.

  • Economic Benefits (15%)
  • Social Benefits (15%)
  • Environmental Benefits (25%)
  • Environmental Impacts (20%)
  • Regional Benefits (10%)
  • Financial Resources (10%)
  • Benefits to State-Owned Properties (5%)  

Application Components:

  • Contact Information – Applicant information, Board Chairperson Information, Payment Contact, Engineer / Consultant, etc.
  • Project Information – Project Types, with Amount Request, Cost, Geographical Details, etc.
  • Project Narrative – One or two sentence Project Scope summary and brief description of the overall project, a brief description of existing conditions
  • Treatments – Eg. Aquatic Barrier Removal, Stream Crossings, Land Acquisition, etc.
  • Budget Detail – Breakdown by Administration, Design, Permitting, Survey, Materials, Construction Oversight, Monitoring, etc.
Scaled Project Location & Conceptual Plan Maps
Signed Forms – Completed & Signed Official Resolution Form, Completed & Signed Conflict of Interest Certification, Signed & Notarized No Overdue Taxes Form (There are also a number of forms for specific projects and circumstances, detailed on the Application)
  • Reports, Photos, Letters of Support (Optional)

2. Section 205(j) WQ Management Planning Grant

The Section 205(j) Water Quality Management Planning Grant (205(j) references the section of the Clean Water Act where the grants are outlined) is a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-provided grant to states for water quality planning. These projects can include everything from assessments to identify the nature and extent of the water quality issues to planning specific implementation plans to address problems.

Encouraged Projects:

  • EPA 9-Element Watershed Restoration Plans – for a 12-digit or smaller USGS HUC
  • Watershed Assessments of Pollutant Sources – Source identification studies, including water quality monitoring, field assessments, modeling and GIS analyses to support watershed plan development
  • Stormwater Infrastructure Mapping – Water quality planning projects with concrete outputs such as (green and/or gray) stormwater infrastructure mapping
  • Projects that benefit water quality outside of the project area – preferably regionally or statewide
  • Knowledge sharing projects – Projects to share water quality planning knowledge between Councils of Government and their member governments

Eligibility:

Regional Councils of Government. Councils of Government may partner with any public sector organization to implement projects. A financial match is preferred, but not a requirement.

Application Deadlines:

The request for proposals is released annually in summer and projects are selected in fall. If a community plans to apply in 2024, it could be useful to begin planning to submit the application in advance.

Funding:

North Carolina typically receives around $150,000 for competitive funding of water quality planning projects. However, for the 2023 fiscal year, North Carolina received additional funding for $406,000 in total. There is no cap on pass-through funding requests. Applicants are encouraged to request adequate funds to fully execute proposed projects and also to project larger projects.

Evaluation Criteria:

Priority will be given to projects that consider and address environment justice and climate change resilience. Because water quality issues disproportionately affect urban and rural communities of color, indigenous, linguistically isolated, low-income and / or communities impacted by other stressors, the Division of Water Resources will award additional points during evaluation to projects that will benefit historically underserved populations.

Application Components:

  • Project Overview & Abstract
  • Contact & Payment Information, Project Partner Information
  • Statement of Qualifications for Project Manager or Partners
  • Project Area Specifications & Map
  • Project Goals & Types
  • Detailed Project Description
  • Photos or Diagrams (Optional)
  • Bigger Picture Benefits Explanations (Climate Resilience & Benefits to Underserved Communities)
  • Budget Summary (Required) and Match Summary (Optional)

Questions? The Thrasher Group NC can help.

If your community is looking into any of these grants, The Thrasher Group NC can help. Our local team of water system engineers is experienced in water distribution system design, treatment plant design, pump station design, treatment process engineering and other specialties included with the scope of many NC DEQ grants and financial assistance programs.

Thrasher has experience in helping communities apply for and receive assistance, coming alongside Water Boards to educate and prepare communities for growth.

Give us a call at (704) 864-2201 or send us a message using our online contact form . We look forward to speaking with you.


Case Study: Smart Water System Project Management Creates Funding for City Infrastructure Plan

The Thrasher Group Completes NC City Water System Replacement Project Under Budget, Funding Forward-Thinking 5-Year Water Infrastructure Plan

Project Overview:

High Shoals, NC Water System Replacement (Phase 1)
The City of High Shoals’ public water supply infrastructure included thousands of feet of water line at or nearing end of life. The water system was experiencing frequent breaks and losing water each day. To prevent increased maintenance costs and potential interruptions to service, the city needed a plan to replace the water line.

The City of High Shoals hired The Thrasher Group North Carolina to design and replace the water system. The project was funded by a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) grant from the North Carolina Department of Commerce.

Water System Replacement

Project Goals

  • Replace the largest water line segment in the City (5,980 linear feet)
  • Replace faulty meters, 73 meters hooked directly into the line
  • Reduce water loss (thousands of gallons per day)
  • Ensure cutover to new water line with minimal disruption to water service
  • Work with local grant writer to secure Community Development Block Grant
  • Meet all applicable North Carolina state regulations

Civil Engineering & Surveying Services Provided

  • Design Surveys
  • Design
  • Plans & Specifications
  • Permitting Coordination
  • Contract Documents
  • Bidding Services
  • Construction Administration
  • Right-of-Way/Easement Acquisition Surveying & Mapping
  • Final Project Certification

Project Approach
The Thrasher Group North Carolina took a phased approach to the water line replacement needed in High Shoals. This case study focuses on the first Phase of the project, which involved replacing the largest water line segment in the city (over 3,000 feet of 12 inch water line, around 1,000 feet of 8 inch water line and 1,500 feet of 6 inch water line). 

The second phase of the project will involve replacing the remaining water lines in town and The City of High Shoals, NC, is currently in the application process for another grant for Phase 2 of the project.

Project Challenges
One of the main challenges of the project was that the new water system replacement needed to be installed without disrupting water services to the residents. The Thrasher Group would need to work closely with the City of High Shoals to develop a phased plan that would minimize downtime to the community’s water services.

Another challenge of the project was that each phase or section of the new water line had to be disinfected and pressure tested before residences could be connected. This process took several weeks to complete and required Engineer inspections and NC State approval.

Project Outcomes
The project was a success, completed on time and under budget.

  • Minimal Downtime – Leveraging jumpers installed at key locations through the project, The Thrasher Group North Carolina successfully replaced the main feeder lines while keeping water service active, with minimal disruption to services for local residents and institutions.
  • Completed On Time – The Thrasher Group successfully managed the water system replacement construction timeline and key milestones like Engineer inspections and NC State approval. The project was completed on time.
  • Completed Under Budget – Because the project was completed under budget, the Division of Water Infrastructure (DWI) permitted the City of High Shoals to use some of the remaining grant funds to pay for updating the City’s Asset Management Plan.  Thrasher was able to update the Asset Management Plan and Capital Improvement Plan that they had originally prepared for the City.  This updated inventory of all water and sewer assets by condition and age will position High Shoals to proactively build out its water infrastructure, preventing future water loss and service disruptions.

Client Quote
“The Thrasher Group North Carolina did an excellent job on this project. They were very professional and worked closely with us to minimize interruption to water service for our community during the replacement.”
P.J. Rathbone, High Shoals, NC, Mayor


North Carolina’s Water Infrastructure Challenges

Growing communities across North Carolina continue to face water infrastructure challenges in meeting their water and sewer needs, leading to moratoriums on new site development, water shortages and sewer overflows.

In fact, in the past 20 years, over 30 North Carolina communities  have had a moratorium on new development due to water or sewer capacity constraints.

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is working to address water services challenges through various programs, such as The Clean Water State Revolving Fund. This initiative provides low-interest loans to communities for wastewater infrastructure projects.

While these initiatives have decreased the number of moratoriums in recent years, it is still essential for North Carolina communities experiencing rapid growth to proactively seek assistance from professional resources like water systems engineering firms.

Civil engineering firms with a background in water system planning can play a pivotal role in auditing existing water inventory and ultimately creating and implementing comprehensive 20-year infrastructure plans.  This article explores 5 ways professional water systems engineers can help growing populations to meet their current and future water needs.

1. Water Systems Inventory Assessment

The first step in preparing water and sewer systems is a comprehensive assessment of the existing water supply system. A water systems engineering firm has the resources to conduct thorough audits of existing water system inventory, evaluating the count/length, condition, capacity, and performance of waterlines, taps, hydrants, manholes, treatment plants, pump stations, storage facilities, distribution networks and more. The assessment may also break down inventory as residential, commercial and industrial.

This assessment serves as the foundation for informed decision-making. It may include recommendations for:

  • Immediate repairs
  • Ongoing maintenance with suggested cadence
  • Immediate upfits and 20-year infrastructure upgrade plan

In some cases the assessment may also recommend that the community focus on community water use awareness, in cases where water conservation practices could easily reduce strain on the existing infrastructure.

2. Water Systems Inventory Management

An initial inventory assessment is needed, but ongoing inventory management is crucial for future success. Inventory management ensures the continued smooth operation of water and sewer systems.

Civil engineering firms utilize advanced techniques, such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS), to create detailed inventories of assets. This includes waterline, pipes, pumps, valves, meters, and treatment facilities, and their current condition (i.e. the waterline may be aging in certain locations and likely to fail if not replaced). GIS can also be used to model the flow of water through pipes and waterlines. This information can be used to identify areas where there is a risk of water pressure problems or contamination.

Accurate inventories enable efficient maintenance, timely replacements, and strategic water system planning, preventing unexpected water infrastructure failures.

3. Demand Projections and Capacity Planning

Professional water systems engineering resources can work with communities to analyze population growth and water use patterns to forecast water and sewer demands. Our water and sewer engineers recommend the creation of a 20-year plan to ensure that infrastructure upgrades keep pace with growth.

Water systems engineers can assess the current system’s capacity and identify areas for enhancements to meet future population demands on the water infrastructure. Engineers use this data to upfit water systems to accommodate current requirements and design water infrastructure expansion plans, ensuring longevity and preventing failure.

In addition to water systems planning, most engineering firms offer end-to-end services, including the design and implementation of water services projects, along with construction monitoring and oversight services –  ensuring the project is completed correctly, on time and within budget.

4. Innovative Solutions and Water Systems Modeling

Civil engineering firms can bring innovative solutions to the table. This may include the implementation of smart technologies for real-time remote monitoring via sensors installed on water systems assets (e.g. leak detection systems) or the integration of renewable energy sources for sustainable operations.

Civil engineers can leverage water systems modeling software to simulate the performance of water systems under different conditions. These models can then be used to identify potential design problems and risk of operational failures before they occur.

5. Environmental Impact Assessment:

Growing communities must balance development needs with environmental conservation. Civil engineering firms conduct comprehensive environmental impact assessments, ensuring that any expansions or new infrastructure projects meet regulatory standards and minimize ecological disruption. This proactive approach fosters environmental sustainability.

In some cases, civil engineers will help communities to implement water conservation and reuse programs to reduce demand on the water system. This includes developing and implementing water use restrictions, public education campaigns, and water-efficient technologies.

6. Community Engagement and Compliance

Civil engineering firms actively engage with the community stakeholders. By fostering open communication, they address concerns, gather feedback, and incorporate community needs into the design and planning processes.

Additionally, civil engineers ensure that all plans adhere to local, state, and federal regulations, guaranteeing compliance. Water systems engineers can also help with generating reports needed for regulatory bodies and stakeholders on water quality, usage and system performance.

Does your growing community need water systems engineering help?

The Thrasher Group North Carolina is proud to support communities with consulting engineering and field services including survey, materials testing and construction management. To talk to one of our team members about your community’s water services needs, fill out our contact form or give us a call at 704-864-2201.