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Drinking Water Tribal Set-Aside (DWTSA) Program

Grants to Arizona, California, and Nevada
Tribes to Improve Public Water Infrastructure

Agency Type:


Funding Source:

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United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 9

Deadline Date:

11/09/17 Receipt


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Grants starting at $30,000 to Arizona, California, and Nevada federally recognized tribes to improve infrastructure for public drinking water. Funding is intended to address significant public health hazards caused by inadequate infrastructure. Grants may be awarded directly to tribes or through interagency agreements with the Indian Health Service.

Infrastructure projects funded through the DWTSA must address the most significant threats to public health associated with public water systems that serve tribal populations. Eligible projects (or portions of projects) must ensure compliance with the National Primary Drinking Water Regulations under 40 CFR Part 141, or otherwise further the health protection objectives of SDWA.

As stated in the national guidelines, eligible infrastructure improvement projects can:
-Rehabilitate/develop sources (excluding reservoirs, dams, water rights);
-Install or upgrade treatment facilities;
-Install or upgrade storage facilities, including finished water reservoirs;
-Install or replace transmission and distribution pipes;
-Replace aging infrastructure if replacement is needed to maintain compliance or further the health protection goals of the SDWA;
-Install new transmission, distribution or service lines to connect existing homes to a public water supply;
-Water efficiency projects (e.g., installation of meters);
-Expansion, consolidation or development of a new public water system (limited circumstances,; and
-Develop preliminary engineering reports (PERs).

Addendum 99-1 to the national guidelines allows funding for the creation of new community water systems to address existing public health problems caused by unsafe drinking water provided by individual wells or surface water sources. The policy also allows the creation of new regional community water systems which consolidate several existing systems that have technical, financial, or managerial difficulties. Before funding the creation of a new system, EPA must ensure that all of the potentially affected parties have been notified and that the tribe has considered alternative solutions to addressing the problem.

According to the national guidelines, new systems may be funded only if the following conditions are met:
-Options for connection with adjacent public water systems have been fully explored and deemed unreasonable by the EPA Region;
-Upon completion of the project, the entity created must meet the federal definition of a community water system;
-Funding is limited to projects where an actual public health problem exists with documented health risks;
-The project must be limited in scope to the specific geographic area affected by the health risk; and
-The project can only be sized to accommodate a reasonable amount of growth expected over the life of the facility - growth cannot be a substantial portion of the project.

DWTSA funding can also be used to develop a preliminary engineering report, and for work to secure rights of way (though DWTSA funds cannot be used to purchase real property).

The national guidelines also allow EPA to consider funding unscheduled “emergency” projects after EPA uses its prioritization method to rank projects for a year. Such projects can include those where some type of failure was unanticipated or the result of natural disaster or an emergency and may require immediate attention to protect public health. In these cases, EPA has the authority to fund the emergency project provided it meets the requirements of the Drinking Water Tribal Set Aside Program.

Program Link to EPA’s Strategic Plan/Government Performance Results Act (GPRA):

Projects funded under this program support the strategic measures expressed by Goal 2 (Protecting America’s Waters), Objective 2.1 (Protect Human Health), of the EPA Strategic Plan for 2014-2018 related to the provision of safe drinking water to tribal communities. The program fits within the EPA Strategic Plan and the Goals Performance Results Act in that the completion of the project will help to achieve the target that 88% of the population served by community water systems in Indian country will receive drinking water that meets all applicable health-based drinking water standards. In addition, the program will help to increase the number of American Indian and Alaska Native homes provided access to safe drinking water in coordination with other federal agencies.

GrantWatch ID#:

GrantWatch ID#: 163446

Estimated Total Program Funding:


Number of Grants:

Based on experience from previous years, EPA estimates that eight to twelve construction projects and a four to five planning projects may be selected for funding.

Estimated Size of Grant:

Projects may range in size from $30,000 to over $2 million.

Projects ranking higher than Health Category 9 may be considered for anticipated FY19 funds. Over the history of the program, the average cost of funded construction projects is approximately $600,000.

Additional Eligibility Criteria:

Only federally recognized Indian tribes within EPA Region 9 may submit proposals.

More information regarding tribes within EPA Region 9 may be found here:

If a tribe receives a grant, the tribe may elect to provide some or all of the funds to another entity, including a tribal consortium, to implement the project, consistent with federal procurement requirements and the EPA Sub Award Policy. The plan for the tribe’s use of the grant funds must be identified in the grant award document. In such a case, the tribe is still the grant recipient, and is ultimately responsible to EPA for proper management of the funds.

Eligible Water Systems:

1. Only public water systems that are community water systems or nonprofit, non-community water systems are eligible to receive funding.

-A public water system is defined as an entity that supplies water for human consumption and has at least 15 service connections or regularly serves an average of at least 25 individuals daily at least 60 days out of the year. It may include collection, treatment, storage, and distribution facilities.

-A public water system is classified either as a community water system or a non-community water system. A community water system means a public water system which serves at least 15 service connections used by year-round residents or regularly serves at least 25 year-round residents. A non-community water system means any public water system that is not a community water system.

2. The system must serve an Indian tribe. Funding can be provided to improve any eligible public water system, whether or not it is owned by a tribe, on or off-reservation, or serving tribal communities living on or off-reservation. Since tribes will be applying for funds on behalf of the water system, EPA will assume that the water system serves a tribe, as required by the SDWA, and the requested improvements are a high tribal priority. In cases where commercial entities and/or non-tribal populations receive water from the public water system, EPA may require the tribe to contribute funds to the project proportional to the water demand of the commercial entity and/or non-tribal populations.

3. Systems that are in significant noncompliance with any requirement of the National Primary Drinking Water Regulations will not be eligible for funding unless the project which is being funded will ensure compliance.13 Monitoring and reporting requirements must also be met to maintain compliance with the SDWA.

4. Any system to be assisted with DWTSA funding must be operated by adequately trained and certified operators. Please note that public water systems subject to the Surface Water Treatment Rule and community and non-transient non-community water systems subject to the Disinfection/Disinfectant Byproducts Rule must be operated by qualified personnel meeting requirements specified by EPA. EPA determines that a qualified operator is an operator certified at the appropriate level of the water system to be in compliance with the SDWA.

5. Tribes will only receive funding for a project if they can demonstrate that the utility has, or will develop, the technical, financial, and managerial capacity to properly maintain the water system.14

According to §1452(a)(2), the Safe Drinking Water Act specifically disallows projects for:
-Operation and maintenance;
-Projects intended primarily for future growth; and
-Land acquisition (unless the land is integral to the project and is from a willing seller (§1452(k)(1)(A)(i)).

According to §1452(g)(2), the Safe Drinking Water Act specifically disallows projects for:
-Supplementing the Public Water System Supervision Program;
-Administering or providing technical assistance through source water protection programs;
-Developing and implementing a capacity development strategy; and
-Administering an operator certification program.

According to §1452(k), the Safe Drinking Water Act specifically disallows projects for:
-Loans to water systems to acquire land or a conservation easement;
-Loans to any community water system to implement source water protection measures in delineated areas;
-Loans to any community water system to assist them with source water protection;
-Technical or financial assistance to any water system to carry out a capacity development strategy; and
-Implementation of a wellhead protection program.

According to the national guidelines, funding is not allowed for:
-Dams, or rehabilitation of dams;
-Water rights;
-Reservoirs (except for finished water reservoirs and those reservoirs that are part of the treatment process and are located on the treatment facility property);
-Projects that serve mainly commercial uses, including livestock watering;
-Projects needed primarily for fire protection;
-Compliance monitoring; and
-Projects for tasks that are considered routine operation and maintenance.

Pre-Application Information:

Matching funds are not typically required; however, in cases where commercial entities and/or non-tribal populations receive water from the public water system, EPA may require the tribe to contribute funds to the project proportional to the water demand of the commercial entity and/or non-tribal populations.

Similarly, for projects whose costs are correlated with water usage, a funding contribution may be required for water systems using over 150 gallons per capita per day, with the contribution proportional to the amount over 150 gallons per capita per day used.

Additionally, given the limited funds available under this program and EPA’s goal to maximize the number of projects it can fund, EPA may work with applicants to explore the availability of funding from other federal agencies, tribal or third-party sources to contribute to the total project cost.

Important Dates:

-November 9, 2017 - EPA must receive proposals by this date, including the proposal form Project Proposal Form (DOC), tribal government endorsement, and any preliminary engineering reports and supporting documents.

-December 2017 - EPA will notify each applicant of the draft proposal priority and whether the project was selected to continue with the application process.

-February 2018 - Applicants can submit comments on the draft prioritization. For projects selected to continue with the application process, applicants must submit responses to any EPA comments. All applicants, including applicants for planning projects, must complete capacity, financial and managerial checklists listed below.

-March-August 2018 - EPA will notify applicants of the final priority list and funding decision, along with guidance letters for projects to be funded by a grant.

-May-August 2018 - Tribe submits grant application, or Indian Health Service submits draft Memorandum of Agreement and Project Summary (exact dates will be included in funding decision notification letters).

-September 2018 - EPA awards funds for selected projects.

Contact Information:

Before starting your grant application, please review the funding source's website listed below for updates/changes/addendums/conferences/LOIs.

Emmanuelle Rapicavoli

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 9
75 Hawthorne Street
San Francisco, CA 94105

URL for Full Text (RFP):

Geographic Focus:

USA: Arizona;   California;   Nevada