Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF)
Founded in 1987, the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) is a federal-state partnership program administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that provides low-interest loans and other low-cost financing for water infrastructure projects for eleven project types, including: constructing municipal wastewater facilities; controlling nonpoint sources of pollution; building decentralized wastewater treatment systems; creating green infrastructure projects; and protecting estuaries. Through the program, EPA provides grants to all 50 states and Puerto Rico, with states matching 20 percent of the grants. These funds are used by state agencies to provide loans, insurance, grants, debt purchases, loan guarantees, or other assistance to qualifying applicants.
The eleven eligible project types under CWSRF are provided below. Different entities (i.e., municipal, intermunicipal or interstate, or state agencies, public, private, or nonprofit) are eligible for each type of project. In addition, each project must be implemented in accordance with different sections of the Clean Water Act.
- Construction of publicly owned treatment works: To construct a publicly owned treatment works (POTW)
- Nonpoint source: To develop a state nonpoint source pollution management program
- National estuary program projects: To develop and implement a conservation and management plan
- Decentralized wastewater treatment systems: To construct, repair, or replace decentralized wastewater treatment systems
- Stormwater: To manage, reduce, treat, or recapture stormwater or subsurface drainage water
- Water conservation, efficiency, and reuse: To reduce the capacity of POTW by reducing demand
- Watershed pilot projects: To develop and implement watershed projects
- Energy efficiency: To reduce the amount of energy used by a POTW
- Water reuse: To reuse or recycle wastewater, stormwater, or subsurface drainage water
- Security measures at publicly owned treatment works: To increase security at POTW
- Technical assistance: To provide technical assistance to owners and operators of smaller and medium-sized POTW to apply for financing from the CWSRF
To be eligible for CWSRF, states must first establish and administer their own water pollution control revolving programs. The nation’s 51 CWSRF programs function like environmental infrastructure banks by providing loans, insurance, grants, debt purchases, loan guarantees, or other assistance to qualifying applicants. As funds including interest earnings are repaid back into CWSRF, more funds are paid out by the state, allowing the CWSRF program to operate and “revolve” at the state level. In addition, U.S. Congress annually appropriates funds through grants to state CWSRF programs. CWSRF assistance options offer significant savings and benefits including below-market interest rates on project cost loans. Before a loan is approved, CWSRF borrowers must identify a dedicated repayment source but this does not need to come from the project itself. Applications for CWSRF assistance are submitted through state agencies.
Between 1987 and April 2020, CWSRFs have provided communities with over $138 billion. CWSRF traditionally funds water-treatment-related projects. For example:
- Decentralized wastewater treatment system: In South Monmouth, New Jersey, state revolving funds were used to provide short-term financing to the South Monmouth Regional Sewerage Authority (SMRSA) as an advance for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to build three resilient pump stations servicing several coastal communities impacted by extreme weather events. The funding supported the purchase of two mobile resilient pump stations and one pump replacing an older station located in a 100-year flood zone. This support helped SMRSA save an estimated $1.9 million in short- and long-term interest costs, and reduce the level of disruption caused by severe storms in coastal communities.
- Energy efficiency project: The City of Struthers, Ohio received $5.4 million for a project that uses methane gas to power treatment processes at the Struthers Water Pollution Control Facility to reduce the facility’s energy footprint.
- Green stormwater development: In Maine, The Long Creek Restoration project received a $2.1 million loan to install green stormwater components such as vegetative bioswales and soil media filters to reduce pollutant loading in Casco Bay.
In addition, CWSRF can also support projects that result in the protection or restoration of surface water, including land conservation and restoration through the fee simple purchase of land, leasing of land, and conservation easements. Any public, private, or nonprofit entity is eligible for land conservation projects.
Past funding recipients and success stories that incorporated land acquisitions and restoration include:
- Watershed pilot project: In Brookhaven, Georgia, EPA made a $5.7 million CWSRF loan to the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA) executive committee in 2017 for an eligible conservation project. The loan financed the acquisition of 33 acres of forested land adjacent to the DeKalb-Peachtree Airport (PDK) to preserve one of the largest remaining tracts of urban forest in Metro Atlanta, helping to protect the watershed of Peachtree Creek. The 20-year loan agreement included a reduced interest rate of 0.89 percent interest and principal forgiveness up to $500,000, with a stormwater fund used as the repayment source.
- Watershed pilot project: In Ohio, the Ohio Water Resource Restoration Sponsor Program (WRRSP) sponsorship financing arrangement with Ohio’s CWSRF program provides support for land conservation including fee simple acquisition, easements, and restoration activities on stream and wetlands and surrounding upland buffers. In 2013, this arrangement allowed the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District to receive a 0.06 percent discount on its standard, below-market interest rate loan to finance four nonpoint source projects including the acquisition of the 87-acre Medina Marsh, which provides protection for 1,450 linear feet of floodplain and forested buffer along the West Branch of the Rocky River.
- Watershed pilot project: In Virginia, the Virginia Land Conservation Loan Program (Virginia's CWSRF program) provided funding support for the $34.1 million acquisition of Nest Natural Area Preserve, Stafford County, through two 20-year loan transactions. The preserve has protected an area of 815 acres of tidal and non-tidal wetlands (around 60 percent of all the marshes in Stafford County), 22 miles of stream, and riparian and wetland buffers and wildlife habitat.
More information about the CWSRF program can be found on EPA's website, including on the funding program, the environmental and financial benefits related to the program to date, and links to guidance documents helping communities identify if this funding source is a good fit for a potential project.
Applications for CWSRF assistance are submitted through state agencies.
If you have any trouble accessing the website link above, please find here an archived page. You may find this has limited use. https://web.archive.org/web/20170125071653/https://www.epa.gov/cwsrf
- Equitable Adaptation Legal & Policy Toolkit > Resilient Water > Funding Options for Resilient and Equitable Water Resources Investments
- Managed Retreat Toolkit > Crosscutting Policy Considerations > Economic: Funding
- Funding program