Many rural communities across the United States rely on wastewater treatment processes that fall short of environmental and public health protection standards. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have introduced several funding mechanisms to improve water and wastewater infrastructure in small municipalities (populations of 10,000 or fewer) to ensure local water quality is not affected by improper wastewater management.
Funding for wastewater treatment plants in rural communities is available, and grant and low-interest loan management assistance can help secure funds to upgrade aging wastewater infrastructure in your community.
A majority of wastewater systems in rural communities are decentralized, with an average daily wastewater flow of less than 1 million gallons. A decentralized wastewater system treats sewage from homes and offices near the source of wastewater generation instead of collecting and transporting the waste to a centralized treatment plant. Decentralized systems are an effective, low-cost alternative to centralized systems. However, rural communities have their own set of challenges with building and maintaining effective wastewater treatment services, including:
The historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Law has allocated $11.7 billion in loans and grants to communities for water-quality infrastructure projects, including wastewater solutions for these communities. The new stream of funding helps support wastewater treatment technology upgrades in small and rural communities through the U.S. EPA's State Revolving Funds (SRFs), particularly the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) and the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF).
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the EPA in a joint partnership have announced the Closing America's Wastewater Access Gap Community Initiative that will be piloted in 11 underserved communities across the country to provide wastewater sanitation. The USDA also provides loans and grants for upgrading water and wastewater utilities in small, rural and tribal communities.
The following table highlights federal funds and grants from the EPA and USDA to upgrade rural wastewater systems.
For small communities, securing funds to develop wastewater infrastructure and ensure successful improvements is an uphill task. Partnering with experienced wastewater engineers can help you navigate the process smoothly.