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Learn about the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF)

Infographic: Learn how the CWSRF works.

The CWSRF was established by the 1987 amendments to the Clean Water Act (CWA) as a financial assistance program for a wide range of water infrastructure projects, under 33 U.S. Code §1383. The program is a powerful partnership between EPA and the states that replaced EPA's Construction Grants program. States have the flexibility to fund a range of projects that address their highest priority water quality needs. The program was amended in 2014 by the Water Resources Reform and Development Act.

Using a combination of federal and state funds, state CWSRF programs provide loans to eligible recipients to:

  • construct municipal wastewater facilities,
  • control nonpoint sources of pollution,
  • build decentralized wastewater treatment systems,
  • create green infrastructure projects,
  • protect estuaries, and
  • fund other water quality projects.

Building on a federal investment of $41 billion, the state CWSRFs have provided more than $118 billion to communities through 2016. States have provided more than 38,450 low-interest loans to protect public health, protect valuable aquatic resources, and meet environmental standards benefiting hundreds of millions of people.

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How the CWSRF Works

Under the CWSRF, EPA provides grants to all 50 states plus Puerto Rico to capitalize state CWSRF loan programs. The states contribute an additional 20 percent to match the federal grants. The program also provides direct grant funding for the District of Columbia, U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, and the Commonwealth of Northern Marianas.

The 51 CWSRF programs function like environmental infrastructure banks by providing low interest loans to eligible recipients for water infrastructure projects. As money is paid back into the state’s revolving loan fund, the state makes new loans to other recipients for high priority, water quality activities. Repayments of loan principal and interest earnings are recycled back into individual state CWSRF programs to finance new projects that allow the funds to "revolve" at the state level over time.

States are responsible for the operation of their CWSRF program. Under the CWSRF, states may provide various types of assistance, including loans, refinancing, purchasing, or guaranteeing local debt and purchasing bond insurance. States may also set specific loan terms, including interest rates from zero percent to market rate and repayment periods of up to 30 years. States have the flexibility to target financial resources to their specific community and environmental needs.

States may customize loan terms to meet the needs of small and disadvantaged communities, or to provide incentives for certain types of projects. Beginning in 2009, Congress authorized the CWSRFs to provide further financial assistance through additional subsidization, such as grants, principal forgiveness, and negative interest rate loans. Through the Green Project Reserve, the CWSRFs target critical green infrastructure, water and energy efficiency improvements, and other environmentally innovative activities.

See more information on how the CWSRF program works in the presentation, "CWSRF 101: An Introduction to EPA's Clean Water State Revolving Fund."

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CWSRF Project Eligibilities

CWSRFs fund a wide range of water infrastructure projects. Eleven types of projects are eligible to receive CWSRF assistance:

  • Construction of publicly owned treatment works
    Assistance to any municipality or inter-municipal, interstate, or state agency for construction of publicly owned treatment works (as defined in CWA section 212).

  • Nonpoint source
    Assistance to any public, private, or nonprofit entity for the implementation a state nonpoint source pollution management program, established under CWA section 319.
  • National estuary program projects
    Assistance to any public, private, or nonprofit entity for the development and implementation of a conservation and management plan under CWA section 320.
  • Decentralized wastewater treatment systems
    Assistance to any public, private, or nonprofit entity for the construction, repair, or replacement of decentralized wastewater treatment systems that treat municipal wastewater or domestic sewage.
  • Stormwater
    Assistance to any public, private, or nonprofit entity for measures to manage, reduce, treat, or recapture stormwater or subsurface drainage water.
  • Water conservation, efficiency, and reuse
    Assistance to any municipality or inter-municipal, interstate, or state agency for measures to reduce the demand for publicly owned treatment works capacity through water conservation, efficiency, or reuse.
  • Watershed pilot projects
    Assistance to any public, private, or nonprofit entity for the development and implementation of watershed projects meeting the criteria in CWA section 122.
  • Energy efficiency
    Assistance to any municipality or inter-municipal, interstate, or state agency for measures to reduce the energy consumption needs for publicly owned treatment works.
  • Water reuse
    Assistance to any public, private, or nonprofit entity for projects for reusing or recycling wastewater, stormwater, or subsurface drainage water.
  • Security measures at publicly owned treatment works
    Assistance to any public, private, or nonprofit entity for measures to increase the security of publicly owned treatment works.
  • Technical assistance
    Assistance to any qualified nonprofit entity, to provide technical assistance to owners and operators of small and medium sized publicly owned treatment works to plan, develop, and obtain financing for CWSRF eligible projects and to assist each treatment works in achieving compliance with the CWA.

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Types of CWSRF Assistance

CWSRFs may offer a variety of financial assistance:

Loans

  • The terms of the loan may not exceed 30 years or the useful life of the project.
  • Interest rates must be at or below market rate, including interest-free.

Purchase of Debt or Refinance

  • A community’s debt may be purchased by a CWSRF program.
  • The purchase may have terms up to 30 years, or the useful life of the project.
  • A CWSRF program may refinance previously issued debt.

Guarantees and Insurance

  • Guarantees or insurance can be used where such assistance will result in improved credit market access or reduced interest rates.
  • The CWSRF program does not disburse funds for construction; such funds are procured by a borrower in the market.

Guarantee SRF Revenue Debt

  • CWSRF programs may issue debt guaranteed by CWSRF funds. The revenue generated is used to provide assistance to borrowers for eligible projects. This expands the capacity of a program in the near-term.

Provide Loan Guarantees

  • Similar revolving funds established by municipalities or inter-municipal agencies can receive loan guarantees.

Additional Subsidization

  • Under certain conditions, CWSRF programs may provide up to a fixed percentage of their capitalization grants as additional subsidization in the form of principal forgiveness, negative interest rate loans, or grants.
  • The annual CWSRF appropriation must be greater than $1 billion.
  • The recipient must be a municipality or inter-municipal, interstate, or state agency.
  • Additional subsidization may only be used to help address affordability issues or to implement a process, material, technique, or technology that addresses water or energy efficiency goals; mitigates stormwater runoff; or encourages sustainable project planning, design, and construction.

Earn Interest

  • CWSRFs may invest available funds in short-term investments.
  • All interest earnings must remain in the fund to be used for eligible purposes.

How to Apply for CWSRF Assistance

CWSRF assistance is provided directly from state agencies. Contact the CWSRF program in your state for information on how to apply.

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