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Water: Allotments

DWSRF Tribal Set-Aside Program

The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), as amended in 1996, established the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) to make funds available to drinking water systems to finance infrastructure improvements.

The Act also authorized EPA to set-aside up to 1½ percent, of the amount available for the DWSRF for grants to improve the infrastructure of drinking water systems that serve Indian tribes (SDWA §1452i). Starting in FY2010 through appropriation law, EPA increased the drinking water tribal infrastructure program funds to 2 percent, of the amount available for the DWSRF grants.

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.

Most types of projects that improve the health of the public being served by the drinking water system are eligible for funding. Examples are projects that:

  • rehabilitate or develop a source of drinking water, or
  • install or upgrade treatment, storage, or transmission facilities.

Funds may also be used to conduct project feasibility studies, engineering design work, and for project administration.

Any federally recognized Indian tribe is eligible to receive a project grant through the program. Tribes may receive grants directly and manage and administer projects themselves, or they may request that project funds be directed to the Indian Health Service (IHS) if the tribe would like the IHS to administer the project, and IHS agrees to do so.

The State of Alaska is also authorized to receive grants for projects that benefit Alaskan Native Villages, if the Tribe requests the that the project be administered by the State and the State is able to do so.

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Detailed Guidance

As part of a Program evaluation in 2011, EPA revised the Drinking Water Infrastructure Grant Tribal Set Aside (DWIG TSA) Program Guidelines. The revisions support current program priorities and promote increased consistency and transparency across the Program. In addition, the revised Guidelines include statutory and programmatic updates to the original 1998 Program Guidelines.

Revisions to the Program include:

  • Changes to allocation formula (factors modified)
  • Changes to project selection criteria (threshold requirements & two new project ranking criteria)

  • Project ranking criteria (to help prioritize projects with the greatest risk to public health) are:
    • (1) Applicant’s Ability to Self Finance which gives a higher priority to PWSs serving households with a median income of less than 80% of the statewide nonmetropolitan household income and
    • (2) Project Cost Efficiency which allows the Regions to prioritize funding based on household unit costs when competing projects (addressing the same level of health risk) are present.

    Threshold requirements include:
    • Proof of operator certification for public waters systems (PWSs) requesting DWIG TSA funding
    • Submission of an annual operating budget
    • Proof of an accounting system independent from other utility programs
    • Submission of a Preliminary Engineering Report (PER) prior to project funding
    • Funding may not be used for projects at systems that have an Enforcement Targeting Tool (ETT) score of an 11 or higher unless the proposed project will directly address the violations impacting the score.

For more information on the revisions:

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Allotment and Management of Program Funds

The total amount of funds set-aside each year are allotted, by formula, among nine EPA Regional offices (Region 3 does not have any federally recognized Tribes within its area of responsibility).

The formula provides, to each Regional office, a “base” amount that is 2% of the total annual DWIG TSA set-aside.

The remaining funds are allotted to the Regions based on their percentage share of the Tribal drinking water system needs that are identified in the most current statistics reported in two different “needs” surveys.

  • The first is EPA’s “Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs Survey” (DWINS) which is conducted every four year.
  • The second is the Indian Health Service’s (IHS) “Sanitation Deficiency System” which IHS updates annually.

EPA Headquarters calculates the allotments. The funds are then transferred to, and managed by, the nine EPA Regional Offices. The Regions are responsible for developing a program to identify, rank, and select projects for funding. Each Regional office has its own method of identifying and ranking projects.

Each method must:

  1. Be quantifiable.
  2. Give priority to projects
    • addressing the most serious risks to human health,
    • that are necessary to ensure compliance with the requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act, and
    • assist systems most in need on a per household basis.
  3. Be developed in consultation with all of the Tribes within their EPA Region.

Each year, Regions develop a project priority list in consultation with the Tribes within their area. Projects are typically funded in priority order although Regions have the authority to postpone a project that is not ready to begin, or to award funds for unscheduled “emergency” projects. Tribes should contact the appropriate EPA Regional office for the specifics of the program in their geographical area.

The allotment of funds among the Regions are calculated twice each federal fiscal year. The initial calculation is made after the federal budget figures are released for the upcoming fiscal year. These allotments are “tentative” figures since they are based on the amount of funds that are requested for the program, rather than the amount actually appropriated. They provide the EPA Regions with planning targets for the coming fiscal year.

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