Congressionally Directed Spending Impacts State Drinking Water Programs

In fiscal year 2022, the ban on Congressionally Directed Spending (CDS) was lifted, allowing Congressional members to use the Drinking Water State Revolving Funds (DWSRF) to fund community projects. Funding for CDS projects is taken from the DWSRF capitalization grants that go to the states and are then dispersed directly to the communities as grants. Redirecting funds from the DWSRF significantly reduces the overall funding available to states’ drinking water programs that ensure public water systems (PWS) meet regulatory standards, provide technical assistance to improve PWS compliance, and increase public health protection.

Read ASDWA's CDS Whitepaper


Hidden Consequences

  1. A lack of funding could lead to adverse public health consequences. A decrease in funding for state drinking water programs may compel states to prioritize some public health threats over others. Without adequate state oversight, water systems may experience preventable operational or managerial failures, leading to adverse public health impacts. Additionally, fewer state resources mean less opportunity to work individually with water systems to help solve problems and return systems to compliance. Without sufficient funding, water system failures may become more commonplace as state programs struggle to keep up.
  2. Longstanding programs in place to assist water systems are at risk of disappearing. Stateprograms that address water system workforce issues, assist with engineering needs, and emergency response (among others) often rely on the funds from the SRF set-asides. As new regulatory requirements fall into place and additional threats emerge, struggling systems need help now more than ever.Without state assistance, many communities will not have the necessary support to address growing challenges.
  3. CDS projects take away from the “revolving” funding for future water infrastructure projects. The funding diverted from the SRFs for CDS projects is provided to the systems as grants and, therefore, does not “revolve” back into the SRF programs as low-interest loans would. Over time, this impact will be compounded, decreasing funding for future water infrastructure projects. Our nation’s water infrastructure has suffered from chronic underinvestment over the past decades while funding needs continue to grow. Significant investments will be needed to ensure communities nationwide have access to safe and reliable drinking water for generations to come.
  4. CDS projects bypass established project ranking processes and take funding away from more “disadvantaged communities.” Congress’s use of CDS projects removes state DWSRF programs from the decision-making process. State DWSRF programs have boots on the ground daily, assisting local communities to increase public health protection. The programs understand the needs of their communities and have policies and processes in place to identify and prioritize those water systems that need funding the most. By circumventing this process, CDS projects take away funding from high-priority communities and projects that states have already identified. Sound infrastructure investments must be made by relying on the best-suited experts to identify the communities most in need and the projects most sustainable.