Clean Water Act Financial Capability Assessment Guidance
Communities, in consultation with regulators and the public, are responsible for evaluating and selecting pollution controls that will meet Clean Water Act (CWA) requirements. EPA encourages communities to use integrated planning and innovative technologies, such as green infrastructure, to achieve CWA compliance in a timely, flexible, and cost-effective manner. After controls have been selected, a financial capability assessment (FCA) is used to assess a community’s financial capability as part of negotiating implementation schedules under both permits and enforcement agreements.
In addition, specific methodologies used for FCAs can be used to consider economic impacts to public entities when determining water quality standards (WQS) variances and antidegradation reviews. In appropriate cases, these methodologies also inform decisions about revisions to designated uses, subject to additional analyses.
The Financial Capability Assessment Guidance (FCA Guidance) is used by municipalities when devising plans to come into compliance with the CWA. During that process, municipalities and EPA negotiate schedules with specific timeframes for implementation. The FCA Guidance describes the financial information and formulas the agency uses to assess a community's financial resources to implement control measures and timeframes.
The FCA Guidance replaces the Guidance for Financial Capability Assessment and Schedule Development (1997) to evaluate a community’s capability to fund CWA control measures in both the permitting and enforcement context. The FCA Guidance will also supplement the Financial Capability Assessment Framework for Municipal Clean Water Act Requirements (2014) and the public sector sections of the Interim Economic Guidance for Water Quality Standards (1995) to assist states and authorized tribes in assessing the degree of economic and social impact of potential WQS decisions.
The guidance document is not legally binding and is intended only to provide clarity to the public regarding existing requirements under the law or agency policies.
- Clean Water Act Financial Capability Assessment Guidance (2023) (pdf)
- EPA News Release
- Final Updated FCA Guidance: Federal Register Notice (pdf) (259 KB)
- Proposed 2022 FCA Guidance: Federal Register Notice (pdf) (237.42 KB)
- Financial Capability Assessment Guidance Fact Sheet (pdf)
- Financial Capability Assessment Guidance Questions and Answers (pdf)
- Financial Capability Assessment Framework for Municipal Clean Water Act Requirements (2014)
- Economic Guidance for Water Quality Standards
CWA compliance schedules should consider available subsidized funding and other financing arrangements as part of a financing plan to achieve compliance as soon as practicable. Determining costs and thoroughly planning how to fund and finance a project will help a community manage this process. Communities should also consider approaches that can reduce or mitigate the financial impact of water services on low-income households, while still allowing the community to complete critical infrastructure improvements within a reasonable schedule. The tools and resources listed below can help a community complete an FCA, including documentation of additional financing and funding considerations as part of a Financial Alternatives Analysis.
- FCA Online Spreadsheet (xlsm)
- Financial Alternatives Analysis Checklist (Appendix C) (page 76): Clean Water Act Financial Capability Assessment Guidance (2023) (pdf)
- Financial Alternatives Analysis Example Worksheet (page 90): Clean Water Act Financial Capability Assessment Guidance (2023) (pdf)
- Water Technical Assistance
- Environmental Finance Centers
- For questions about Technical Assistance Related to Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Funding, email: WaterTA@epa.gov
- The following webinar will help stakeholders and utilities understand the revised 2023 FCA Guidance:
- The following webinar provides an overview of EPA's Financial Capability Assessment Spreadsheet Tool to support the 2023 Clean Water Act FCA Guidance. The FCA Spreadsheet Tool can be used to evaluate a community’s financial capability to fund CWA control measures for permitting and enforcement purposes. EPA hosted the webinar in November 2023: