Financial Technical Assistance and Tools for Water Infrastructure
The Water Infrastructure and Resiliency Finance Center works with on-the-ground partners to provide financial technical assistance to communities. The Center provides:
- Objective financial advice to help communities make informed decisions on funding drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure projects.
- Access to tools that help utilities make financing decisions that meet their local infrastructure needs.
The Center does not fund water infrastructure capital or predevelopment projects.
Water and wastewater infrastructure is a crucial yet expensive investment. Effective management requires financing and pricing strategies that cover the cost of providing services, while managing debt and ensuring that services remain affordable. EPA resources include:
Water Utility COVID-19 Financial Impact Tool
Water Utility COVID-19 Financial Impact Tool can help drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater (“water”) utilities assess the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the utility’s cashflow.
This tool leads water utilities through questions that can determine how their revenues, expenses, and cashflow have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The spreadsheet automatically calculates the changes for a utility’s revenues and expenses by looking at current 2020 monthly financials versus the average monthly financials of the utility’s 2019 audited financial statement. Water utilities can use the tool each month to keep a running total of their cashflow.
Use of the spreadsheet is voluntary and its results are provided for your information only. EPA is not collecting either the data entered by utilities nor the results. EPA is planning to send a separate survey to randomly selected utilities at another time.
The tool contains the following questions:
- Have commercial/industrial revenues been impacted?
- Have residential revenues been impacted?
- Do you sell wholesale water/wastewater treatment?
- Do you charge connection/tap fees?
- Are you suspending late fees?
- Are you suspending shutoffs?
- Does your system receive tax revenue either directly or from a parent agency?
- Do you sell byproducts (e.g., biosolids, electricity, etc.)?
- Do you generate interest income from cash on hand?
- Do you have additional revenue streams that have not been identified?
- Have your labor costs, regular and overtime, changed?
- Do you purchase water for resale?
- Do you pay another system to treat your wholesale wastewater?
- Have your chemical usages changed?
- Have your disposal costs changed?
- Have your testing expenses changed?
- Has there been a change in the system's energy bill?
- Has there been a change in the system's other utility services?
- Has there been a change in use of supplies (supply chains)?
- Has there been a change in supplying uniforms/attire?
- Has there been a change in supplying Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) or other materials, such as cloth masks?
- Do you expect a change in the system's interest expenses?
- Have you incurred new expenses as a result of COVID-19?
- Do you have additional expenses that have not been identified?
Cash Flow Questions:
- Has there been, or do you expect, a change in Accounts receivable?
- Has there been, or do you expect, a change in Accounts payable?
- Will you delay pension fund contributions?
- Are there inter-agency funds transfers that have occurred, or that will occur?
- Has there been, or do you expect, a change in the system's rate structure such as a delay in implementing a rate increase or temporary rate reductions?
- Do you have a rate stabilization fund?
- Has there been, or do you expect, a change in budgeted capital expenditures?
- Are there, or do you expect, a change in expenditures due to delayed construction projects?
- Will you attempt to restructure existing debt?
- Will you incur new debt?
- Do you have available cash on hand?
- Have you used reserve funds?
Other Financial Tools
- Infrastructure Financing and the Price of Water Services provides information for utilities on various financial topics.
- Water Infrastructure Financial Leadership: Successful Financial Tools for Local Decision Makers - This document highlights successful financial tools to help inform local water infrastructure investment decisions by identifying what is needed for financial planning, determining how to fund and finance a project, and considering which strategic approaches can be used to protect local investments.
- Pricing Resources includes various guides, tools, and case studies on pricing for water services.
- Financing Alternatives Comparison Tool (FACT) helps identify the most cost-effective method to fund a wastewater or drinking water management project.
- Guidebook of Financial Tools: Paying for Environmental (PDF)(223 pp, 2.6 MB, About PDF) Systems provides information on approximately 340 financial tools that include traditional means of raising revenue, borrowing capital, enhancing credit, creating public-private partnerships, and providing technical assistance.
The Environmental Finance Center Network and other technical assistance providers offer a wide variety of financial tools for water and wastewater utilities, including tools for rate setting and affordability.
- Affordability Tools: These tools assess the affordability of a utility’s water and wastewater services for their customers. There are also tools to assess the cost of implementing a customer assistance program in areas with affordability issues.
- Rate Setting Tools: These tools help set water or wastewater rates by projecting the utility's expenses, revenues, and fund balance for the next few years. They can help determine if the utility needs to adjust rates to achieve financial sustainability.
These financial tools can be found at:
- University of North Carolina Environmental Finance Center Tools Exit
- Wichita State Environmental Finance Center Tools Exit
- RCAP Resource Library Exit
- NRWA State Affiliate Tools Exit
2021 Financial Capability Assessment for Clean Water Act Obligations
On January 12, 2021, EPA signed a federal register notice finalizing the 2021 Financial Capability Assessment (FCA) for Clean Water Act (CWA) Obligations. A pre-publication of the 2021 FCA is available until the official version is announced in the Federal Register.
The 2021 FCA advances the ability of communities to more accurately demonstrate the financial burdens they face and increases the transparency of EPA’s considerations as it endeavors to consistently apply FCA methodologies across the country. EPA’s 2021 FCA guidance includes new metrics that more accurately reflect how much low-income communities can afford to pay for service, which impacts the affordability of capital expenditures and operation and maintenance needed to ensure CWA compliance. Additionally, EPA will apply the options and flexibilities from Appendix D of the 2021 FCA when considering economic impacts for public entities seeking revisions to designated uses, water quality standard (WQS) variances, and antidegradation reviews for WQS.
When the official version is announced in the Federal Register, the 2021 FCA will replace the 1997 Guidance for Financial Capability Assessment and Schedule Development.
Utility Customer Assistance Programs (CAPs)
Households on fixed or lower incomes, as well as households that face a temporary crisis such as a job loss or illness, may have difficulty paying water and sewer bills. Many drinking water and wastewater utilities have seen an opportunity to meet specific customer needs, along with the needs of meeting their own operational and capital costs to provide drinking water delivery and/or wastewater management services, through developing customer assistance programs (CAPs).
- A compendium of Drinking Water and Wastewater Customer Assistance Programs has been compiled to describe the benefits, implementation, and examples of CAPs throughout the country. These examples show the short-term or long-term reductions through a Bill Discount, Flexible Terms, Lifeline Rate, Temporary Assistance, and Water Efficiency advantages.
- Webinar on Customer Assistance Programs at Drinking Water and Wastewater Utilities
Learn how drinking water and wastewater utilities are implementing customer assistance programs (CAPs) created for customers having difficulty paying for water and sewer bills. CAPs help all customers receive the public health benefits of drinking water and wastewater services, while also helping utilities meet their financial needs and obligations.
The Center collaborates with stakeholders that work with small and rural systems to increase financial capabilities.
- Capacity Development Program
EPA’s capacity development program helps small system owners and operators, state and tribal agencies, technical assistance providers, and consumers help small water systems provide safe drinking water and protect public health. Every state has a capacity development program to help small systems improve their finances, management, infrastructure, and operations.
- Environmental Finance Center (EFC) Network
EFCs partner with, states, tribes, local governments and the private sector to deliver targeted technical assistance to the water sector. EFCs and their partners provide innovative solutions to help manage the costs of environmental financing and program management.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development
Rural Development offers loans, grants, loan guarantees and technical assistance to support essential services in rural areas including water, electric, and communications infrastructure.
- National Rural Water Association (NRWA) Exit
NRWA is a national network of non-profit organizations that:
- Trains, supports, and promotes the water and wastewater professionals that serve rural and small communities across the U.S. and
- Provides training and technical assistance through 49 affiliated State Rural Water Associations on operating, managing, and financing water and wastewater utilities.
- Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) Exit
RCAP is a national network of non-profit organizations that:
- Helps rural and small communities throughout the U.S. access safe drinking water and sanitary wastewater disposal and
- Provides training and technical assistance through six regional organizations on financing, managing, and operating water and wastewater systems.
WaterCARE supports communities in developing finance planning strategies for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure that meet long-term local needs. The Center is partnering with the Environmental Finance Center Network to provide predevelopment technical assistance to 10 communities across the country.
WaterCARE communities have a combination of the following criteria: a population less than 100,000, a need to address public health challenges, below-average median household income, and/or readiness to proceed with a water infrastructure project.
Program services can include assistance with developing alternative analyses, rate and revenue analyses, asset management practices, financing/funding options, affordability analyses, fiscal sustainability plans, water efficiency studies, resiliency assessments, regional partnerships, public engagement and customer outreach, and decision-maker/board education and training.
Project successes will be shared to support decision making for other communities that have similar water infrastructure financing needs.
- Buchanan County, Virginia
- Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribe (Montana)
- Gatesville, Texas
- Haines Borough, Alaska
- Hoopa Valley Tribe (California)
- Johnston, Iowa
- Lawrence, Massachusetts
- Selma, Alabama
- The Township of South Orange Village, New Jersey
- Youngstown, Ohio
See the map of WaterCARE Communities.