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Teaming Up: How Partnerships Benefit Water Quality through Decentralized System Improvement 

EPA’s Decentralized Wastewater Management Memorandum of Understanding Partnership (Partnership) works collaboratively at the national level to improve decentralized performance and protect the nation’s public health and water resources. The Environmental Council of the States (ECOS) joined the Partnership in the fall of 2017. The Partnership and ECOS missions alike prioritize ensuring the protection of the environment, in this case water quality, and public health.

Decentralized System Partners
One of the focuses of the Partnership is how to best leverage existing funding sources. This supports the aims of ECOS Resolution 16-5 which encourages the identification of financing approaches that help communities make sustainable decisions for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure investment. In this resolution, ECOS supports leveraging opportunities across federal, state, local, and private authorities to make more resources available to communities. Perhaps most importantly to ECOS, the Partnership exemplifies a way of sharing information that enables states to learn from one another.

Missouri’s Department of Natural Resources (Department) provides grants and loans to communities for wastewater and drinking water projects through its State Revolving Fund (SRF). By creating a partnership with a local non-profit, Ozark Water Watch (OWW), the Department has been able to utilize funding sources in the best way to improve water quality in southwest Missouri.

Missouri’s Onsite Wastewater Treatment System Remediation Program
Rapid population growth is occurring in southwest Missouri. Because more and more people are moving to areas which are not covered by municipal sewers, septic systems are going in the ground. Soils in this area of Missouri are generally rocky and thin which makes the typical onsite system consisting of a septic tank and drain field an ineffective form of wastewater treatment. The Department has teamed up with OWW to address this water quality issue. OWW is a non-profit organization dedicated to maintaining and improving the water quality of Missouri’s upper White River watershed. OWW administers a grant and loan program for residents of Missouri’s upper White River watershed to fix their failing onsite septic systems. This program is funded by the Department’s SRF. Depending on household income, residents may be eligible to receive up to a 100%, but not to exceed $30,000, grant and zero percent interest loan to repair or replace their failing septic tanks.

Since the program began in 2011, 289 systems have been replaced or rehabilitated. The program has prevented an estimated 6.7 million gallons of untreated sewage from entering the area’s water annually. Made available through the Department and OWW partnership, the Onsite Wastewater Treatment System Remediation Program empowers local residents to protect their water resources while also generating economic growth in the area.