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Decentralized Stakeholder Partnership Renewed

Decentralized MOU partners

In 2005, the Environmental Protection Agency formed a Decentralized Wastewater Partnership with eight initial public and private sector partners, with the goal of improving the overall performance and management of decentralized systems. The partnership’s Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is renewed every three years with the following five priorities:

  • Increase outreach and public education about decentralized wastewater/septic systems.
  • Identify and utilize current information about decentralized wastewater/septic system use and performance in the United States.
  • Promote advanced decentralized treatment technologies to the wastewater industry and the public.
  • Share information on funding options to help communities and homeowners with decentralized wastewater/septic system repair and replacement.
  • Address workforce, education, training and research needs related to the decentralized wastewater industry.

The partnership has created more awareness of decentralized issues nationwide through SepticSmart Week and other promotional activities the group has planned. It has also led to more interaction between member organizations, helping to develop more consistency in messaging as well as more cooperation and working relationships, which helps advance the goals of the MOU.

The partnership’s MOU was most recently renewed on December 5, 2023, for the seventh signing. The partner organizations have grown in number from eight to 25 as of the newest MOU. Five organizations joined the partnership for the newest cycle, including the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development (USDA-RD) and the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH). 

The new MOU “[renews] the commitment of EPA and its partner organizations to work together to encourage proper management of decentralized systems and increase collaboration among EPA, state and local governments, and decentralized system practitioners and providers.” The renewal document can be read and downloaded here.

Decentralized MOU Signatories, December 5, 2023

Decentralized MOU Signatories, December 5, 2023

Accomplishments of the 2020 MOU

The chief accomplishment of the 2020 MOU cycle was the implementation of the “Closing America’s Wastewater Access Gap Community” initiative. A team from the EPA and USDA-RD launched and led the program, with technical assistance provided by the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP), the National Rural Water Association (NRWA), and the Environmental Finance Center Network (EFCN). The pilot program worked in 11 historically underserved communities from Arizona to North Carolina to tackle wastewater management challenges and protect community health.

2022 marked the 10th anniversary of SepticSmart Week, the annual celebration led by the EPA of septic system management. SepticSmart Week 2022 featured a photo challenge which helped create 800,000 impressions on social media. Community and educational events were held across the country.

Partners also released a host of new educational materials throughout the MOU cycle, including reports, position papers, and fact sheets. Notably, RCAP and the National Onsite Wastewater Recycling Association (NOWRA) released a guidebook and training courses for homeowners with septic systems. The MOU Partnership together updated the online training module “Water Infrastructure and Resiliency Finance Center,” and released a series of reports addressing the decentralized industry’s workforce issues.

Among partner organizations, the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) assisted the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in developing the Private Water Network, which trains professionals to manage private water sources effectively. The Water Research Foundation (WRF) completed two major research projects on improving decentralized technologies. RCAP completed over 150 technical assistance projects in 45 states and territories; 26 of which were specifically decentralized and onsite projects.

For our part, the team at and the Private Well Class has been an active non-member of the MOU Partnership, participating in meetings, calls, and assisting with the SepticSmart Week committee and activities.

Read the full report on the 2020-2023 accomplishments of the MOU Partnership for more details on these and many more accomplishments.

For More from the Decentralized Wastewater Partnership