Small communities are the heartbeat of America. Tight-knit family and friends, cozy downtown areas with unique businesses, and overcoming adversity are what make small communities special. A common adversity facing small towns and rural areas is upgrading their aging infrastructure and wastewater treatment equipment. According to Statista.com, "Aging water and wastewater infrastructure in the United States was by far the most important challenge facing stakeholders in this industry in 2020. Hundreds of billions of dollars are needed to improve and maintain the countries water infrastructure. The U.S. is in the midst of a water crisis with safe drinking water no longer a guarantee. Furthermore, rising water bills across the country mean millions of American can no longer afford water," states Ian Tiseo with Statista. Below is a graph which represents the concerns of small communities and their biggest concerns about water and infrastructure.
Finding the proper funding for these large projects in small budgets is not an easy task. Leaders in communities are faced with making improvements to help the community or risking severe issues by prolonging the upgrades. If your community is looking for funding to complete a large wastewater improvement project, our team has compiled a list of funding sources for drinking water initiatives.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency is an excellent resource for finding grants, loans and other funding resources for drinking water projects. All of the information below can be found directly on the EPA website or the corresponding hyperlinks.
Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Resources for Drinking Water
According to the EPA, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) is a large investment in our nation's infrastructure and communities. The legislation approved more than $50 billion investment over the next five years (till 2027). The funding represents the largest investment in drinking water, wastewater, water reuse, conveyance and water storage infrastructure in our nation's history, including funding to replace lead service lines and address PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances).
The EPA has also shared drinking water grant information by state for disadvantaged communities. According to the EPA, "the 1996 amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) established the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) to help water systems finance infrastructure improvements to reach compliance with drinking water standards." To achieve this goal, DWSRF financing is subsidized through below-market interest rates and extended loan terms:
DWSRF Disadvantaged Community Definitions: A Reference for States (pdf) (879.82 KB, June 2022, 810-R-22-002) This guide includes information about indicators currently used by states, as well as the reasoning for how states have previously distributed their additional subsidy. This guide is meant to be a resource for State DWSRF programs that want to update their DAC definitions.
EJ Screen: An Environmental Justice Mapping and Screening Tool to provide a nationally consistent dataset and approach for combining environmental and demographic indicators.
Drinking Water Grants
The EPA has created a list of drinking water grants for public water systems around the country. Here is a list of the funding programs available right now:
"The WIIN Act addresses, supports and improves America's drinking water infrastructure. Included in the WIIN Act are three new drinking water grants that promote public health and the protection of the environment."
"Funding under this program supports drinking water projects and activities in underserved, small and disadvantaged communities that are struggling to find funding to meet drinking Safe Drinking Water Act regulations."
"Focused on disadvantaged communities, this grant helps those concerned with the reduction of lead in drinking water. This grant focuses on reducing lead in drinking water through drinking water infrastructure, treatment improvements, and facility remediation in schools and childcare facilities in states and tribal communities."
Within the Drinking Water Grants, there are also funding opportunities for Public Water System Supervision (PWSS) Grant Program, Tribal Financial Resources, Training and Technical Assistance for Small Systems Grants - click here to learn more.
Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF)
According to the EPA "Funding for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) is provided on a yearly basis through the Congressional appropriations process, and funds capitalize state loan banks to help maintain local drinking water infrastructure, like treatment plants and distribution systems. EPA then awards capitalization grants to each state for their DWSRF based upon the results of the most recent Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs Survey and Assessment. The state provides a 20 percent match."
The DWSRF also has an added benefit to communities who need more than physical water systems and infrastructure. According to the EPA "States may use a portion of their capitalization grant from EPA as “set-asides” to help communities support water systems with non-infrastructure needs (such as building technical, managerial, and financial capacities of their water systems)."
DWSRF assistance agreements have been previously secured for:
improving drinking water treatment
fixing leaky or old pipes (water distribution)
improving source of water supply
replacing or constructing finished water storage tanks
other infrastructure projects needed to protect public health
Clean Water State Revolving Fund
The CWSRF is similar to the DWSRF in that the EPA awards grants to all 50 states (plus Puerto Rico) to support water infrastructure projects that address a community's important water quality needs. According to the EPA "The CWSRF is primarily used for wastewater treatment infrastructure. However, there are also eligibilities related to source water protection," such as:
Nonpoint source pollution management
Decentralized wastewater treatment systems (septic systems)
Water conservation, efficiency, and reuse
Engineering & Special Evaluations Assistance
SEARCH - Special Evaluation Assistance for Rural Communities and Households is a program which helps small, under-funded rural communities with predevelopment studies, design and technical assistance on proposed water and waste disposal projects.
Who may apply?
Most state and local governmental entities
Federally recognized tribes
What is an eligible area?
Areas to be served must be rural and financially distressed:
Rural areas with a population of 2,500 or less
Have a median household income below the poverty line or less than 80 percent of the statewide non-metropolitan median household income based on latest Census data
When your city experiences a disaster, it can be devastating. In the event you are ever faced with rebuilding from a disaster, there are two main USDA programs that can support water and wastewater systems for disasters or mitigation:
A maximum grant of $1,000,000 to communities with a significant decline in quantity or quality of drinking water due to an emergency
A maximum grant of $150,000 to make emergency repairs and replacement of facilities on existing systems
Provides funding for clean and reliable drinking water systems, sanitary sewage disposal, sanitary solid waste disposal, and storm water drainage to households and businesses in eligible rural areas. Funds may be used to finance the acquisition, construction or improvement of:
Drinking water sourcing, treatment, storage and distribution
Sewer collection, transmission, treatment and disposal
Solid waste collection, disposal and closure
Storm water collection, transmission and disposal
Also, in the past, Congress has made funds available for specific disasters. Other additional USDA programs that are targeted for special population programs could be used for disasters or mitigation.
We understand that municipalities often have big ideas on how to improve their systems but are held back by tight budgets. We hope this list has provided some additional resources and information to develop a safe and reliable water system for your community. Please reach out to our team if you have any questions or are searching for clean water or drinking water technology for your upgrade.
EPA. 2022, July 22. Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Resources for Drinking Water | US EPA
EPA. 2022, July 11. Drinking Water Grants | US EPA
EPA. 2022, July 18. Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) | US EPA
EPA. 2022, April 11. Learn about the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) | US EPA
EPA. 2022, July 11. WIIN Grant: Reducing Lead in Drinking Water | US EPA
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Rural Development. n/d. Emergency Community Water Assistance Grants | Rural Development (usda.gov)
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Rural Development. n/d. SEARCH - Special Evaluation Assistance for Rural Communities and Households | Rural Development (usda.gov)
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Rural Development. n/d. Water & Waste Disposal Loan & Grant Program | Rural Development (usda.gov)