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Fed FUNDS for Water and Wastewater Utilities

Overview of Federal Disaster Funding Opportunities for Water and Wastewater Utilities

Below are short descriptions of funding programs from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

FEMA Public Assistance (PA) Grant Program
Following a Presidentially-Declared Disaster, FEMA's Public Assistance Grant Program provides grant assistance for emergency work (to address immediate threat to life) and for permanent work (to restore a damaged facility). The program applies to publicly-owned water and wastewater utilities or private nonprofit utilities (e.g., cooperatives).

FEMA Hazard Mitigation Assistance (HMA) Program
FEMA's Hazard Mitigation Assistance (HMA) grants reduce disaster losses and protect life and property from future disasters. Mitigation includes community risk reduction, improved resilience of critical infrastructure, risk reduction for vulnerabilities from natural hazards and climate change, and initiatives to reduce future risks. Projects must provide a long term solution.

USDA Rural Development Emergency Community Water Assistance Grants (ECWAG)
The Department of Agriculture provides from $150,000 to $500,000 to assist a rural community that has experienced a significant decline in quantity or quality of drinking water due to an emergency. Grants cover projects to obtain or maintain adequate quantities of water that meet the standards set by the Safe Drinking Water Act. Emergencies include drought, earthquake, flood, tornado, hurricane, disease outbreak or chemical spill, leakage or seepage.

EPA Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF)
EPA provides grants to states under the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund. States make low-interest loans to water systems to protect public health and ensure compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act. States may also set aside money for technical assistance to help utilities assess damages, purchase backup generators, install physical flood barriers and relocate wells. Funds have been used in flood and drought situations.

EPA Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF)
EPA provides grants to states under the Clean Water State Revolving Fund. States make low-interest loans or other assistance to publicly owned wastewater collection and treatment systems, stormwater systems and nonpoint source pollution control and estuary management projects.

HUD CDBG and Section 108 Guaranteed Loans
HUD Community Development Block Grants (CDBGs) are for entitlement communities. CDBGs may also go to states to distribute to non-entitlement communities. Communities must spend at least 70% of these funds for activities that benefit low- and moderate-income persons. Utilities have used these block grants to develop new water sources, improve treatment and replace distribution system pipes.

SBA Disaster Loans
Through its Office of Disaster Assistance, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) can provide low-interest, long term loans to businesses and private nonprofits of all sizes following a disaster. This includes infrastructure assistance to private for-profit (PFP) and private nonprofit (PNP) utilities to restore them to their pre-disaster operability.

Each federal funding program covers different utility needs, including planning, construction, operations and maintenance. This table provides a quick look at the eligible uses under federal disaster funding programs:

Eligible Uses of Selected Federal Disaster Funding for Response, Recovery, and Mitigation Efforts

East Valley Water District

East Valley Water District in California was reimbursed for more than $400,000 from FEMA Public Assistance Grants for disaster response to the Old Fire in the San Bernardino National Forest in October 2003.

Portland Water Bureau

Portland Water Bureau obtained a $3 million mitigation grant from FEMA to make conduits more secure from landslides.

Rebuilding a Damaged Water Tower

When a tornado damaged a water tower in a rural community, USDA's Emergency Community Water Assistance Grants provided money to rebuild the tower.

Repairing Hurricane Damage

In 2009, the City of Galveston, Texas received a grant through EPA's DWSRF, which was used to finance repairs to the White Sands elevated storage tank, damaged by Hurricane Ike.

Flood Mitigation

Linwood, New Jersey received $2,183,362 through EPA's CWSRF to fund major stormwater drainage improvements to alleviate significant flooding in two watershed locations.