Wastewater Treatment: Overview and Background Page: 2 of 6
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Federal Aid for Wastewater Treatment
In addition to prescribing municipal treatment requirements, the CWA authorizes the
principal federal program to aid wastewater treatment plant construction. Congress
established this program in the Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972
(P.L. 92-500), significantly enhancing what previously had been a modest grant program.
Since then, Congress has appropriated $76.5 billion to assist cities in complying with the
act and achieving the overall objectives of the act: restoring and maintaining the
chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation's waters (see Table 1).
Title II of P.L. 92-500 authorized grants to states for wastewater treatment plant
construction under a program administered by the Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA). Federal funds are provided through annual appropriations under a state-by-state
allocation formula contained in the act; the formula (which has been modified several
times since 1972) is based on states' financial needs for treatment plant construction and
population. States used their allotments to make grants to cities to build or upgrade
categories of wastewater treatment projects including treatment plants, related interceptor
sewers, correction of infiltration/inflow of sewer lines, and sewer rehabilitation.
Amendments enacted in 1987 (P.L. 100-4) initiated a new program to support State
Water Pollution Control Revolving Funds (SRFs). States continue to receive federal
grants, but now they provide a 20% match and use the combined funds to make loans to
communities. Monies used for construction are repaid to states to create a "revolving"
source of assistance for other communities. The SRF program replaced the previous Title
II program in FYI 991. Federal contributions to SRFs were intended to assist a transition
to full state and local financing by FY1995; SRFs were to be sustained through repayment
of loans made from the fund after that date. The intention was that states would have
greater flexibility to set priorities and administer funding in exchange for an end to federal
aid after 1994, when the original CWA authorizations expired. However, although most
states believe that the SRF is working well today, early funding and administrative
problems, plus remaining funding needs (discussed below), delayed the anticipated shift
to full state responsibility. Congress has continued to appropriate funds to assist
wastewater construction activities, as shown in Table 1. (This table excludes
appropriations for congressionally earmarked water infrastructure grants in individual
communities, which totaled $7.0 billion from FY1989 through FY2008.)
Table 1. CWA Wastewater Treatment Funding
($ in millions)
Fiscal Year Authorizations Appropriations
1973-1984 46,180 40,544
1985-1989 12,000 10,747
1990-1994 8,400 9,869
Total: 66,580 78,292
Source: Budget of the United States Government, Appendix, various years.
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Wastewater Treatment: Overview and Background, report, November 17, 2008; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc809020/m1/2/: accessed March 17, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.