Each year, the US Bureau of Reclamation awards WaterSMART Water and Energy Efficiency Grants to utilities and other organizations to fund projects that promote sustainability (including addressing climate-change impacts, drought resiliency, etc.) and aim to conserve and use resources more efficiently.

Grant application development consists of more than writing. The research, computation, and other work necessary to prepare a comprehensive grant proposal can be time-consuming and requires intense focus. The typical time frame from grant announcement to application submission is about 90 days, and that time moves quickly! If you plan to apply for a WaterSMART Grant this year, here are some things to consider to make sure your application is competitive, strong, and thorough.

Don’t underestimate the process—plan ahead

The submission period for the WaterSMART Grant spans a few months and, while that might sound like plenty of time, it tends to go quickly and there are a lot of moving pieces. Many applicants underestimate the process and think it can be completed in a short period of time. But preparing your application may take more time than you realize, so it’s best to work ahead of schedule and give yourself plenty of time to complete a thorough, detailed, and accurate application.

Pro tip: check out the Bureau of Reclamation's WaterSMART Grant page for resources. It shares announcements—like the winners of the 2023 Water and Energy Efficiency Grants—info about webinars, previous applications, FAQs, and more to assist in advance preparation. Take some time to explore common themes and develop content throughout the year.

Cross every T and dot every I

WaterSMART funding can help to offset costs for these multi-million dollar technology projects, but don’t let the grant money distract you from the hard work ahead. Your application is strongest when you put the time and effort into developing a compelling narrative.

The first step is to read the funding announcement in its entirety to understand the criteria for each category. Your project may not check every box, so it’s important to highlight your strengths and acknowledge the areas that aren’t applicable.

Be realistic when discussing project goals and outcomes. You’ll have to regularly report on the measurable benefits from your application over the course of the whole project.

This is a competitive process. Only a small fraction of the applicants receive funding each year. Take the process seriously to ensure nothing gets lost along the way.

Take advantage of community connections

One way to differentiate your utility’s application is to take advantage of connections in your community. Connecting with community stakeholders to get their support and buy-in is vital to the long-term success of a utility project.

Request support documentation from governance, city or state politicians, and local organizations. Having a letter from leaders in the community backing up the benefits of the project—environmentally and locally—will go a long way!

Don’t be shy—consult an expert for guidance!

Utility employees wear many hats, juggling a variety of priorities every day. It can be challenging to tackle a comprehensive project like a grant application. When there’s not enough time in the day to do it all, our team can alleviate your stress by managing the application development process and completing research on your behalf.

Lucky for you, we have a strong history of writing applications and winning WaterSMART Grants for many clients. Our advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) experts can help you understand your level of preparedness and identify the steps for your business case.

We’ve secured more than $22 million in grant funding on behalf of utilities across the US. In addition to application development, we provide funding research and grant-reporting services. Let us put our expertise to work for you so you can find funding that will make your project even more financially viable.

Contributing Authors

Senior Consultant, Technology Planning and Implementation Consulting

Kierra Thomas specializes in stakeholder communications, guiding E Source clients through the technology deployment life cycle. With more...