The U.S. EPA, all 50 states and Puerto Rico have invested almost $9.5 billion in drinking water improvements since 1996, according to the just-released Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) 2005 annual report. The first of its kind, the report focuses on nearly 4,400 projects that have ranged from treatment, transmission and distribution, and rehabilitation of wells to developing new sources of water, upgrading storage facilities and consolidating water systems.
“The Drinking Water State Revolving Fund is a thriving, multi-billion dollar partnership that protects public health and sustains America’s water infrastructure,” said Assistant Administrator for Water Benjamin H. Grumbles. “It has a robust future and will continue to provide critical assistance to help communities provide safe drinking water and meet economic needs.”
Congress established the program in 1996 to help finance infrastructure improvements. EPA awards grants to states, which, in turn, provide low-cost loans and other assistance to eligible water systems.
Since 1997, the fund programs have improved public health protection for 100 million people. In recent years, the program has averaged more than $1.3 billion in annual assistance to drinking water systems. The program appeals to financial institutions because no participants have defaulted on their loans.
Low interest rates—sometimes as low as 0%—make state programs attractive to the participating drinking water systems. Since the program’s inception, almost 73% of all DWSRF loans have been made to water systems serving fewer than 10,000 people. This aspect is particularly important to small and disadvantaged systems that have difficulty obtaining affordable financing.
State DWSRF programs advance public health protection in two ways: they provide an accessible and affordable source of financing for infrastructure improvements, and they improve a system’s ability to provide safe and reliable drinking water—now and into the future.