Collaboration Toolkit

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Find Funding Ideas

While forming a collaborative, you might need funding for:

  • Operations and team-building: Some base funding is usually helpful for initial startup activities like kickoff meetings and workshops, and related outreach materials and invitations. Core partners may be able to provide meeting space or limited funding to cover staff time.
    • View below for examples of how other collaboratives acquired base funding.
  • Pilot projects: In the early stages of a collaborative: launching a few pilot projects can establish early success, boost morale, and “iron out” operational kinks. You may need funding for implementation as well as communication materials surrounding pilot projects.

As you browse for funding, keep in mind:

Collaboratives often have more financial options than they think. Communities may tap into federal and state grants or local taxes and bonds, while water suppliers may have access to funds to conserve land in their watersheds. State or local foundations may have a priority interest in public health or water quality. Think about creating a “funding quilt” that stitches together diverse pieces of funding into a stable whole. This strategy also prevents reliance on a single, potentially short-term source of funding.

Lessons learned:

  • Communication – between stakeholders and between project team members and stakeholders – is absolutely key.
  • Understanding and incorporating the needs and issues of the faces across the table are essential elements in building trust.
  • Funding sources are key to maintaining organizational structure. Headwaters regions may lack the financial resources available to downstream areas where water is delivered for economic benefit, and thus may have to depend on public or foundation support. One group in California was awarded a collaborative planning grant (private funds) to continue in their efforts through 2014, and has been awarded a grant (state funds) for implementation of key infrastructure needs.

Operational and Base Funding Examples from Current Collaboratives

Collaborative Funding source while forming
Salmon Falls Watershed Collaborative (NH-ME) Founding workshop in 2010 was funded by the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services and Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, with technical support from the national Source Water Collaborative.
Otsego County Water Quality Coordinating Committee (WQCC), New York State The WQCC began as a sub-committee of the Otsego County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD). NY State Agriculture and Markets funded SWCD to develop a water quality strategy. NY Agriculture and Markets was, in turn, funded by a grant from the EPA Clean Water Act Section 319 nonpoint source program.
Berks County Water and Sewer Association and Triple Divide Watershed Coalition A number of county and multi-county source water collaboratives in Pennsylvania emerged out of start-up funding from the Water Resources Education Network (WREN), a project of the League of Women Voters of PA, with funding from the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund set-aside by the PA Department of the Environment. Ongoing funding for the Berks County Water and Sewer Association is provided through Association dues and fees collected from sponsoring training workshops.
Schuylkill Action Network (SAN) Initial funding was provided by EPA through a Targeted Watershed Initiative Grant in 2004 to the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary for water quality improvement and demonstration projects. These projects leveraged additional matching funds from the state of Pennsylvania through its Growing Greener grant program. Click here for a brochure about the Schuylkill River Restoration Fund.
Nebraska Wellhead Protection Network Founding meeting was convened and initiated by the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality in 2001. The group is funded by Clean Water Act Section 319 grants. Members rotate hosting quarterly meetings.
Idaho-Washington Aquifer Collaborative (IWAC) In 2009, the Idaho Water Resource Board sponsored a 50-year Comprehensive Aquifer Management Plan (CAMP) for the Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer. IWAC was created out of meetings between utilities, the Spokane Aquifer Joint Board (including private stakeholders), and nonprofits.

Funding Options for Pilot Projects

Federal Small-Grants Numerous federal grants apply to source water protection, including grants that focus on nonpoint sources of pollution, urban water sources, infrastructure projects, and more. Click here for a complete list of federal grants available for source water protection.

Funding Program Description Eligibility
Urban Waters Small Grants Program (UWSGP) Grants of $40,000 to $60,000 each to support urban community efforts to access and improve waterways. Targets 18 at-risk communities in the US.
Nonpoint Source (NPS) Implementation Grants Clean Water Act Section 319 Funding for nonpoint source control practices like restoration of wetland and floodplain hydrology and vegetation; treatment of urban and agricultural runoff; reforestation; and public education. Administered by states, territories and tribes. Consult your state NPS Coordinator
Acid Mine Drainage Reclamation The U.S. Department of Interior’s Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) Reclamation Program is designed to support the efforts of local groups to complete construction projects to clean streams impacted by AMD. Nonprofits, especially watershed groups, committed to remediating AMD.

Local Sources

Many communities are home to local foundations, levies, government programs, and private sponsors who can provide start-up funding for pilot projects. Collaborative members can provide key insights into local funding sources. See below for a few examples of location-specific programs.

Funding Program Description Eligibility
Community Development Block Grant Program (and similar US Department of Housing and Urban Development grants) Provides annual funding to specific cities and counties to enhance living environments. May fund the construction of public improvements, such as green infrastructure and neighborhood centers. “Entitlement communities,” as listed here.
Delaware River Restoration Fund (Open Space Institute, Drexel University, William Penn Foundation) Supports projects to protect the Delaware River, source water for 17 million people. Emphasizes three priority strategies: stewardship of working lands; restoration of wetlands, floodplains and stream corridors; and promoting adoption of green infrastructure in urban/suburban landscapes. View detailed eligibility standards in the Fund’s Request for Proposals
National Fish and Wildlife Foundation small grants The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation helps fund grants focused on pilot projects in specific locations, species, and topic areas. While grants emphasize habitat restoration, they often sponsor mutually protective actions for drinking water and biodiversity, such as land conservation and green infrastructure. Eligibility depends on project relevance to individual grant goals.
William Penn Foundation Provides grants of to support scientific research and analysis; land acquisition for conservation; and stream restoration in the Delaware River Basin. The Foundation also funds outdoor recreation and education programs in the watershed. Organizations classified as tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) and as public charities under Section 509(a) of the Internal Revenue Code. Religious organizations may receive funding for non-sectarian projects that benefit the wider community.

Private Endowments and Public-Private Partnerships

Private companies, especially those that use or impact drinking water, may have substantial resources to offer source water protection activities.

The Five Star Grant program Encourages on-the-ground wetland, riparian, in-stream and coastal habitat restoration as well as community education. Five Star receives funding from FedEx, PG&E, Southern Company, and Alcoa Foundation, as well as the EPA, the Forest Service, and US Fish and Wildlife Service. Any public or private entity. Preference is shown to organizations directly connected to the local community who can monitor and sustain projects for 5 years or more. Preference is also shown to groups of five or more partners who provide in-kind funding.
Environmental Solutions for Communities Initiative (Wells Fargo and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation). A 5-year initiative (2012-17) leveraging $37.5 million. Provides grants of $25 to $100 thousand. Funding priorities include sustainable private agriculture, land conservation, water quality improvement, habitat restoration, and green infrastructure. Nonprofits, educational institutions, and state, tribal or local governments working in states where Wells Fargo operates. Encourages broad-based citizen participation in project implementation.
Sustain Our Great Lakes (ArcelorMittal – an integrated steel and mining company – and several federal agencies). Public-private partnership to protect the Great Lakes. Funds on-the-ground habitat restoration and enhancement throughout the Great Lakes basin. From 2006-2013, awarded 193 grants worth $37.1 million. Projects must occur within the Great Lakes basin. Eligible applicants include nonprofits, educational institutions, and state, tribal and local governments.

Do you work with agricultural producers?

Are you looking to leverage resources for conservation with another organization?

See the Source Water Collaborative’s online conservation partners toolkit for current opportunities in your state via USDA’s NRCS.

Click to download a PDF version of this page

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