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Using ARPA Funds to Optimize Water and Sewer Planning - Powered by Ecopia's HD Maps

Learn how Ecopia's HD Maps can serve as a source of truth for decision-makers across all levels of government working towards critical infrastructure development under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).


“Necessary investments in water, sewer, or broadband infrastructure [should] be carried out in ways that produce high-quality infrastructure, avert disruptive and costly delays, and promote efficiency”  - Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds | AGENCY: Department of the Treasury | ACTION: Interim final rule. 

Green Infrastructure Development and the Need for Geospatial Data

The negative impacts of water runoff and the requirements for evidence-based infrastructure development have come under greater scrutiny in recent years. Increased construction of largely impermeable surfaces driven by urban growth, has led to environmental and infrastructure challenges. The motivation to build new green infrastructure and adapt existing infrastructure to become more environmentally sustainable has brought to attention the need for high-quality geospatial data to support decision-making.

Having accurate, scalable and up-to-date foundational maps is critical to

  • Ensure the development of high-quality infrastructure
  • Promote the efficient development of communities
  • Minimize the negative impact of land development

Incorporating geospatial data such as land use and land cover (LULC) information into the design of a community is essential in a build-out plan to minimize the environmental impact of future growth and development. 


Leveraging ARPA Funds to Support Water and Sewer Infrastructure Planning

The US federal government has recognized the importance of further development to improve water and sewer management. Most recently by including the category as one of the six ways in which funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) can be used. Allocating $350 billion to state, local, territorial, and Tribal governments so they can focus on recovering from the economic fallout of the Covid-19 Pandemic and to address climate change. While the inclusion of water and sewer projects is geared towards capital-intense green and grey infrastructure development projects, there is a clear mandate to support the planning and assessment of these initiatives. 

The funds allocated for water and sewer infrastructure are deemed eligible so long as they follow the criteria established by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF). The ambiguity of this program, in terms of the potential scope of work, and the caveat that the eligibility of a project may not be exclusively defined by the parameters of the CWSRF has led to an underutilization of resources. This is acute in the case of planning and assessment of water and sewer-related projects. The objective of this blog is to explain the benefit of geospatial data and how it can not only support the planning and development of infrastructure projects but also be used as a tool to help mitigate climate change and the negative impacts of urban sprawl. 

It would seem prudent that the starting point for a capital project would be an extensive review of existing infrastructure to understand the optimal way to deploy resources. Often, this is not the case. The division of working groups between planning and development often separates the private sector and public interest. Resources are often focused on the construction of new infrastructure and oftentimes, there is not enough attention attributed to build-out planning. The ARPA funds present an opportunity for all levels of government to recognize the value in planning and align it with the development of green infrastructure and adaptation of existing resources. ‍


Integrating Ecopia HD Vector Maps Into Water and Sewer Planning

The foundation of stormwater and flood modeling is built on geospatial data such as topographic mapping and LULC data. Topographic mapping and slope maps have minimal change over time and therefore require less frequent updating. Conversely, LULC data are constantly changing and at an expedited rate as the population in urban centers increases. Increasingly, people are moving away from rural settings and joining the urban metropolitan, thereby reducing the natural landscape. Effectively, the shift to urban living has resulted in humans waterproofing the land. The increase in impervious surfaces has been detrimental to existing stormwater infrastructure, not to mention the environmental impact on areas such as natural wetlands and coastlines. Culminated with the negative impacts of climate change including increased rainfall and extreme events, the consequences of not building a plan to solve water and sewer problems are dire. To address the negative impacts of existing development and plan for future growth, a fundamental understanding of existing assets is required. Ecopia’s HD Vector Maps are a source of accurate, comprehensive, and up-to-date information that can be leveraged as a primary source of information to support the modern build-out plans and fall into the scope of the CWSRF project guidance. By having a base layer of information, it is easier to understand how infrastructure must be adapted and how new construction must be built. 

Ecopia's mission is to digitize the world using artificial intelligence
Ecopia's mission is to digitize the world using artificial intelligence

Ecopia HD Vector Maps are digital representations of natural and man-made assets. With the buildout of our Nationwide 3D Land Cover Map, Ecopia can provide any community, rural or urban, with the information they need to support their stormwater planning efforts. The integration of high-accuracy vector data with stormwater models enables the opportunity to simulate the impact of infrastructure development and modification of existing assets. Previously, these models have relied on outdated coarse-resolution data leading to inaccurate results and challenges in keeping up with the rapid rate of community growth. The ability to rely on data that will be consistently updated and prepared to GIS professional accuracy is pivotal to the success of infrastructure development moving forward. 

City of Detroit impervious surface delineation to support stormwater utility assessment

Ecopia HD Vector Maps are currently integrated into the planning models at all levels of government, leveraging unique datasets to meet their respective requirements. Our clients at the municipal level are leveraging HD Vector Maps in their stormwater planning models and as a source of information for their stormwater utility fees, and our clients at the federal level are optimizing our impervious layers to support a variety of initiatives including urban sprawl analysis, wetland impact, and flood mapping. At all levels, the data is a critical source of information to support a more sustainable future. As communities and planning divisions embrace data-based decision-making, the benefit is beyond improved infrastructure – the design of environmentally forward cities has a positive effect on citizens and engages them in climate resiliency. 

Building a foundation for the future requires a deep understanding of the past and present – Ecopia HD Vector Maps are a source of truth in an ever-evolving world. 

To learn more about Ecopia HD Vector Maps and how they can be leveraged to support infrastructure development under the ARPA, please get in touch.

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