Tribal Set-Aside Program of the Drinking Water Infrastructure Grant
The 1996 amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act (SWDA), established the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF). The DWSRF makes funds available to drinking water systems to finance infrastructure improvements.
The SDWA also authorized EPA to set-aside up to 1.5% of the DWSRF for grants to improve the infrastructure of drinking water systems that serve tribes (SDWA §1452i). Starting in 2010, Congress increased the tribal set aside funds to 2%.
Through this authority, EPA established the Drinking Water Infrastructure Grants Tribal Set-Aside (DWIG-TSA) Program. Community water systems and non-profit, non-community water systems that serve a tribal population are eligible to have projects funded, in whole or in part, with DWIG-TSA funds.
The 2016 Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (WIIN Act) expanded the activities that are now eligible for DWIG-TSA funds, to include training and operator certification programs. More information about implementation guidance can be found at: Amendments to the Drinking Water Infrastructure Grants Program as Required by the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act Memo (PDF) (2 pp, 436 K, April 18, 2017, About PDF).
2017 also marked the 20th anniversary of the Drinking Water Infrastructure Grants – Tribal Set Aside. More information on the DWIG-TSA and examples of program successes can be found here: 20 Years of Protecting Public Health on Tribal Lands: EPA Drinking Water Infrastructure Grants (2 pp, 423 K, June 2018, EPA-810-F-18-004).
More information about the DWIG-TSA program can be found at: Drinking Water Infrastructure Grants Tribal Set-Aside Program: Revised Guidelines Final December 2013 (PDF)(115 pp, 3MB, About PDF).
Program Eligibility Requirements
Any federally recognized tribe is eligible to receive a grant. If the Indian Health Service (IHS) agrees, tribes may request that IHS receive the project funds to administer the project.
Funds can be used only for planning and construction expenditures at community or non-profit non-community drinking water systems that serve tribes. Funds must be used to address the most significant threats to public health.
The SDWA further directs that funds may be used only for projects that facilitate compliance with the National Primary Drinking Water Regulations (NPDWRs) or will further the health protection objectives of the SDWA.
These funds cannot be used for compliance monitoring, operation, and maintenance of a system.
Examples of projects funded by the DWIG-TSA program are:
- Rehabilitation or development of sources of drinking water;
- Installation or upgrade of treatment facilities;
- Installation or upgrade of storage facilities;
- Installation or replacement of transmission or distribution pipes; or
- Replacement of aging water system infrastructure.
Projects can also be funded to develop project engineering reports, engineering design work and project administration.
EPA uses a formula to allocate DWIG-TSA program funds among the EPA Regional Offices annually.
The formula provides a base amount of 2% of the total annual DWIG TSA set-aside to each Regional Office. EPA Regions are responsible for working with the Indian Health Service (IHS) and the tribes, to identify, prioritize, and select projects to receive funding from its share of the program funds.
The Regions receive the remaining fund allocations based on their percentage share of the tribal drinking water system "needs". The drinking water system "needs" come from the most current statistics reported in two different surveys:
- EPA’s “Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs Survey” (DWINS)- conducted every four years.
- Indian Health Service’s (IHS) “Sanitation Deficiency System”- updated annually.
In fiscal year 2012, Congress provided EPA with the authority to transfer funds between the Clean Water Indian Set Aside (CWISA) and DWIG-TSA Programs. In 2013, EPA began implementing this authority by allowing Regions to transfer up to 33% of a Region’s DWIG-TSA allotment between the two programs.
For more information please refer to Drinking Water Infrastructure Grants Tribal Set-Aside Program: Revised Guidelines Final December 2013 (PDF)(115 pp, 3MB, About PDF).
The Role of the EPA Regions
You may need a PDF reader to view some of the files on this page. See EPA’s About PDF page to learn more.
EPA Regions have the authority to approve grants to tribes to address drinking water infrastructure needs under DWIG-TSA.
Regions are responsible for developing a quantifiable approach for project selection that is consistent with the “Drinking Water Infrastructure Grants Tribal Set-Aside Program: Revised Guidelines Final, December 2013”.
Each Regional office has its own method of identifying and ranking projects.
Defining Tribal Drinking Water Needs
As part of the DWINS, EPA documents the 20-year capital investment needs for American Indian and Alaska Native Village water systems. The survey reports infrastructure needs that are required to protect public health. These include projects to ensure compliance with the SDWA that are eligible for funding under the DWSRF.
As directed by the SDWA, EPA uses the results of the survey as a tool for allocating DWSRF to the tribes. The following links provide information from the survey last conducted in 2010:
- 2011 Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs Survey and Assessment: Fifth Report to Congress - Documents the fifth DWINS conducted by EPA in 2010.
- EPA’s 2011 Drinking Water Needs Survey and Assessment Fact Sheet.
- Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs Survey-First Report to Congress - Documents the first DWINS conducted by EPA in 1997.
Contact your region’s EPA Regional Drinking Water Infrastructure Grant Tribal Set-Aside Coordinators, for more information on DWIG-TSA and its implementation.