Navigating the Complicated Maze of Funding Opportunities for Water and Wastewater Projects

Navigating the complicated maze of funding opportunities can be, well, complicated; there’s the time it takes to research applicable programs, time to understand them and their application guidelines, then there’s organizing your own initiatives and keeping track of deadlines. Municipalities also have to weigh the pros and cons of choosing a public or private program (or maybe a hybrid!) or if they should venture into federal initiatives or state-specific programs.

Combined, all of these decisions can make a necessary task a daunting one.

Each source of funding comes with its own set of requirements, benefits, funding parameters, and other considerations. By taking the time and care to properly research the available opportunities, water and wastewater utilities can secure the critical resources they need in order to deliver better outcomes for their communities.

But where do you start? Right here!

While this is by no means an exhaustive list of all of the funding opportunities available to us in New England, it’s an informative and comprehensive starting point.

State Revolving Funds (SRFs)

Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF)

The Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) is a federal-state partnership program with the EPA that provides funding to projects focused on reducing water pollution and protecting our vital water sources.

Eligible projects include, but are not limited to, ones with a focus on constructing or repairing existing sewer systems, creating green infrastructure, mitigating nonpoint source pollution from runoff and urban stormwater, and other water management projects. In the form of zero percent interest to low-interest loans (and a 20% match by the state), the CWSRF is able to help municipalities upgrade their wastewater treatment facilities, which is crucial in removing contaminants and providing residents with clean, safe, and accessible drinking water.

Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF)

The Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) is another federal-state partnership program that provides funding for municipalities needing to make crucial improvements to their infrastructure, specifically those in small and economically disadvantaged communities.

Funding is given in low-interest loans and grants to eligible projects that are in need of repairing and upgrading wells and storage tanks to mitigate contamination, connecting multiple water systems, replacing broken or damaged pipes, building water treatment plants, or creating entirely new systems. In doing so, the DWSRF helps municipalities also fall in compliance with the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) by not only promoting public health but also ensuring residents can have access to clean, safe, and reliable drinking water.

It’s important to note that a stipulation of the funding is that eligible states must be able to match 20% of the grant.

Compared to the CWSRF, the DWSRF mainly aids projects with a focus on the safety and reliability of our drinking water. Whereas the CWSRF focuses on addressing wastewater infrastructure needs head-on, However, both are critical funding opportunities that focus on maintaining and improving our nation’s water infrastructure, protecting public health, and fostering environmental sustainability.

To read more information about these two SRFs, you can read our previous blog.

Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA)

The EPA’s WIFIA is a federal initiative that provides funding for eligible water and wastewater infrastructure projects. The funding is long-term and in the form of low-cost loans for projects that require substantial financial assistance on both a regional and national level. What is particularly great about this act is that the WIFIA funds are able to cover up to 49% of eligible project costs, meaning this kind of funding can make a serious impact on local municipalities that are in great need.

WIFIA is open to eligible projects that are also eligible for the Clean Water SRF, Drinking Water SRF, and other water facility energy efficiency projects. Other projects like desalination, aquifer recharge, water recycling, and drought mitigation, among others, are also eligible. More information on WIFIA can be found here.

Emerging Contaminants in Small or Disadvantaged Communities Grant (EC-SDC Grant)

The EC-SDC Grant is a great resource for small or disadvantaged communities that are in critical need of improving their drinking water. With the funding, eligible municipalities can develop projects and activities in response to emerging contaminants, including PFAS. In doing so, they have the necessary tools to provide their citizens with continuous, clean drinking water. It should be taken into consideration that only municipalities with a population of 10,000 or less are eligible for this grant.

By focusing on communities with limited resources, this grant is able to better bridge the gap we often see in water quality and public health protection compared to more privileged communities, while supporting critical infrastructure improvements and instilling environmental justice across the state.

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) supports rural water and wastewater utilities through its Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program. This initiative focuses on only rural areas and small towns with populations of 10,000 or fewer, which, as we know, are often in need of financial assistance to take care of their critical infrastructure needs.

Funding is in the form of long-term, low-interest loans and can be used for acquiring, building, or improving drinking water systems, sewer systems, solid waste management, and stormwater systems. The program also covers other areas of the project, such as legal and engineering fees, land acquisition, permits, equipment, start-up operations, etc., that are vital for public health and environmental sustainability.

In addition to federal programs, there are funding opportunities for each state. States often have their own grant and loan programs that are tailored specifically to their own unique regional challenges and priorities. For example, you can find more information on water resources grants and other financial assistance for projects such as drinking water, wastewater, septic systems, wetlands, and watersheds within the Commonwealth here.


Remaining proactive in the hunt for water and wastewater financial assistance is not for the faint of heart. But it is evident that there are a range of options out there that are often able to be combined. Navigating federal programs, state-specific funds, private grants, and public-private partnerships can be overwhelming, but they provide communities with the robust framework they require in order to take the next steps in addressing their infrastructure needs.

By prioritizing these opportunities, utilities can not only overcome financial barriers, but they can also gain the necessary tools to find long-term solutions while completing their goal of providing their communities with accessible, clean, and safe drinking water.

You can also read more about other funding opportunities by visiting our previous blog, Funding 101: Where to Find Money for Critical Water and Wastewater Projects.

Get the Lead Out!

Funding Programs for Lead Service Line Replacement

In our line of work, we take pride in working to improve our drinking water and provide cost-effective, informative, and innovative project solutions when it comes to water. This pride and passion runs especially deep when it comes to lead exposure.

For example, in an effort to help remove lead pipes from Massachusetts turf, in the past we have partnered with the city of Marlborough, MA and replaced lead pipes with copper ones in approximately 250 homes, and have helped with the replacement of 427 services for the city of Newton, MA, among other cities and towns as well.

Like we said, this passion runs deep. And it is from this passion that we want to take a moment to discuss the Massachusetts Clean Water Trust (also known as “the Trust”) and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) joining forces to drive municipal participation in the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Lead and Copper Rule Revision (LCRR) to determine if public or private lead service lines (LSLs) contain lead. Their efforts have resulted in a $20 million grant for public water suppliers to complete their LSL inventory plan or design a LSL replacement program.

This is great news. But what makes it so great?

For starters, let’s start with why lead is bad for us. Exposing one to lead, whether by contaminated drinking water or ingestion, can lead to severe brain and nervous system damage, kidney damage, can drastically affect children and those who are pregnant, and can cause death.

Prior to 1944, lead was commonly used in service lines, home pipes and paints, coins, and even dishes and cosmetics (yikes!). And in 1978, lead-based paints were banned for residential use; but it wasn’t until 1986 that Congress amended the Safe Drinking Water Act, prohibiting the use of pipes, solder, or flux that were not lead-free. Even so, it is reported that even today, 29.4% of all US homes contain lead hazards.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that every year, one million people die of lead poisoning. What’s worse is that the EPA estimates that there are between six and ten million lead service lines in this country. And of course, we can’t bring up drinking water pollution without bringing up Flint, MI, a city that went without safe drinking water from April 2014 to 2019, exposing between 6,000-12,000 children to severe lead poisoning and killing twelve people.

The gist is that lead is not our friend.

T&H assisted the City of Newton, MA on their city-wide lead service line replacement project

Now, what exactly is LSL replacement? It’s exactly how it sounds: it is a service line replacement for lead pipes where they are replaced with copper ones. All in all, LSL replacement is the only long-term solution to protecting the public from lead pipes.

Back to the main message: The Massachusetts Clean Water Trust (the Trust) and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) are offering $20 million in grants for assisting public water suppliers with completing planning projects for lead service line inventories and replacement programs.

Need help constructing your LSL inventory plan? Our Vice President, Justine Carroll, shared a brief planning structure you can use when creating your application. Want more assistance? You can reach out at to us via phone or email. We are happy to help!

The deadline for the LSL inventory plans is October 16, 2024. MassDEP requires a submission of every municipality Public Water System’s (PWS) plan of action on prioritizing, funding, and fully removing any LSLs that are connected to their distribution system. In addition, municipalities that serve 50,000+ people must post their inventories on their website, allowing full transparency for both residents and businesses to access this information.

An excellent alternative if your PWS serves a population with less than 10,000 people is that MassDEP will “use $1.3 million of the set-asides from the DWSRF Lead Service Line Grant to contract with a qualified technical assistance provider to work with the PWS,” according to Mass.Gov. This means that small communities will be able to have access to a free consultant, paid for by MassDEP to help with the LSL planning.

You can read more about the LSL planning grant agreement here. And again, if you have any questions on this program or need help with applying for this funding, reach out to us today. We are just a phone call or email away.