Diagnostic for Public Funding

Source water protection (SWP) is a growing sector of environmental investment. Disparate actors are convening at the federal, state, and municipal level to identify funding strategies to both protect and restore source watersheds. Learn more about a tool for scoping public funding opportunities for SWP below.


  1. What is the Diagnostic for Public Funding tool?

    The Diagnostic for Public Funding provides a process by which public funding options can be investigated and evaluated for their feasibility in a given context. The Diagnostic should be used in the early stages of scoping a public funding strategy, and can be used as soon as securing public funding has been identified as a potential solution.  

    The Diagnostic provides a stepwise process for evaluation and decision making to determine the viability of  a suite of public funding options. Depending on the context, however, steps may be taken out of order, or eliminated altogether. 

    Each overall Process concludes with a Decision Point, where the decision to continue investing in a given strategy is evaluated wholistically. These Decision Points allow for reflection on the results of the process, and an opportunity to assess the likelihood of success.

    To inform the Decision Point, each Action identifies a set of Critical Factors: the criteria being evaluated in the Action, and the Evaluation itself: the set of questions being weighted against the factors. Evalution questions may lead to qualitative or quantitative answers. The Outcome section provides deliverables for each Action, and can be used as a tracking tool for the resources developed in the Evaluation Process. 

  2. Why has this tool been created?

    TNC chapters usually have the capacity and in-house skillsets to develop many critical pieces of a successful public funding mechanism, like a water fund. TNC’s capacity to convene diverse partnerships and reputation as a science leader indicate the Conservancy is well-positioned to develop a transformative methodology for scaling these types of solutions across the United States. We have found, however, that chapter staff generally lack guidance on what public funding options are available to tap into to solve their local conservation challenges. TNC currently lacks the capacity to make evaluations in the early stages of planning about sustainable funding for these projects. The purpose of this report is to attempt to close the internal knowledge gap around sustainable funding, and to standardize, simplify, and lower the costs of funding feasibility studies.

  3. How do I use this tool?

    Answers to evaluation questions should be concise. In-depth research is generally not required, however, a more diligent process will yeild more robust results. The entire process is expected to be done with a small group of staff (less than 1 total FTE) over a period of 1 to 3 months. As public funding is a mix of political will and conservation need - it is imperative Conservation staff work in conjunction with Government Relations staff to ensure a viable final product. 

    It is expected that feasbility studies and polls would be contracted out, and are therefore generally not considered ‘internal capacity’. As a result, those sections of the diagnostic are less comprehensive, as local contexts will factor heavily with each individual contractor on the scope of work for additional deliverables.  

Public Funding Diagnostic: Overview of Process