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Advancing Environmental Justice

The mission of ASDWA’s environmental justice strategy is to advance health equity by identifying barriers within the drinking water sector and developing achievable and sustainable solutions for providing safe, reliable drinking water to all communities. Expand the sections to learn more about ASDWA’s two focus areas for addressing the unique needs of different communities.

State Actions: Drinking Water and Disadvantaged Communities

The Biden-Harris Administration’s Justice40 Initiative and the incredible funding provided by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to assist disadvantaged communities have put a new emphasis on addressing environmental justice in regard to drinking water. State drinking water programs have a long and successful history of providing funding and technical assistance to their disadvantaged water systems. States work to identify and implement creative and innovative solutions that consider all opportunities for providing funding and assistance to the communities that need it most. ASDWA intends for this webpage to serve as a central source for activities and actions states have taken to address environmental justice within their drinking water programs. This page will continue to grow and evolve as EPA and the states work to tackle these complex issues. We encourage you to check back regularly for updates.

State Definitions of Disadvantaged Communities

Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, states are responsible for defining what constitutes a disadvantaged community. These definitions are used to make determinations and help prioritize the funds for drinking water infrastructure that are distributed to communities and water systems through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund programs. The passing of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and its requirements for providing funding to these communities has prompted many states to evaluate and redefine what constitutes a disadvantaged community.

The table below provides the text definition that each state uses, along with the link to where that definition can be found (Intended Use Plans, regulations, statute, or policy). Additionally, we’ve provided links to each state’s Drinking Water State Revolving Fund program and any additional environmental justice resources available. Users can search by term. For example, searching for “population” will limit definitions to only those that include that term. This table can be sorted by column and exported, or you can download a formatted version of the table here: Formatted ASDWA Table of State Definitions

ASDWA staff worked with states to ensure that this data is up to date, but it should be noted that many states are currently in the process of updating their definitions. The date below denotes when the full table was last reviewed. Specific definitions that have been updated since that date will be flagged within the definition in the table. Any state staff that would like to update the information included within this table, please contact Stephanie Schlea at sschlea@asdwa.org.

Table last reviewed fully: July 12, 2022
Definitions with an * were updated August 5, 2022, based on EPA’s “DWSRF Disadvantaged
Community Definitions: A Reference for States” report. 

State Case Studies on Disadvantaged Communities: Successes and Challenges

The States have been doing incredible work to help address disadvantaged communities, but they are facing both opportunities and challenges with expanding on these successes to help small and disadvantaged public water systems address needs for upgrading, maintaining, managing, and sustainably operating their systems. ASDWA began collecting case studies of community success stories and struggles from members in early 2022. Each case study highlights the community demographics, issues facing each system, and what steps were taken to help the system tackle its challenges. ASDWA is continually adding new case studies. If you have a case study you would like to highlight, please contact Stephanie Schlea at sschlea@asdwa.org.


ASDWA’s Environmental Justice News Feed

ASDWA publishes content covering various areas of the drinking water program.

Learn More

US Water Alliance Releases Racial Equity Toolkit for Water Utilities

December 2nd, 2022 Stephanie Schlea The US Water Alliance has released a new tool, the Racial Equity Toolkit, designed to enable water utilities to work towards improving their racial equity practices and outcomes both within the utility itself and its customers/community. The US Water Alliance highlights that utilities "can use the Toolkit to understand how current policies, practices, and programs…

EPA Approves Final SDWA Variance for Denver Water’s Lead Reduction Program Plan

December 1st, 2022 Ashley Voskuhl US EPA has approved Denver Water’s comprehensive approach for reducing lead in drinking water through the issuance of a final variance under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The variance allows Denver Water to continue to implement a set of actions, called the Lead Reduction Program Plan (LRPP), which work together to reduce lead in Denver’s…

CEQ Releases Version 1.0 of Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool

November 23rd, 2022 Stephanie Schlea On November 22, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) launched version 1.0 of the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool (CEJST). The tool includes an interactive map and uses indicators of burdens in eight categories: climate change, energy, health, housing, legacy pollution, transportation, water and wastewater, and workforce development. The screening tool is meant…