In the early history of Washington, D.C., there were separate sewer, water and sanitation departments. Over the years, the agency underwent several name and organizational changes, while remaining committed to its core mission. Between 1935 and 1938, this agency operated as the District of Columbia Department of Sanitary Engineering. It was during this time that the first sewage treatment plant at Blue Plains was constructed. In the early 1970s, the agency was known as the District of Columbia Department of Environmental Services. Later, in 1985, the District Government established a new Department of Public Works, of which the Water and Sewer Administration was a part of until 1996.

In 1996, the District Government initiated the creation of the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority (DC WASA), an independent authority of the District of Columbia providing services to the region. On April 18, 1996, following a 30-day Congressional review period, the District Council enacted DC Law 11-111, "The Water and Sewer Authority Establishment and Department of Public Works Reorganization Act of 1996."

DC WASA began a renewal period to improve delivery of water and wastewater treatment services to the District and regional customers and to improve and replace the water and sewer infrastructure. Like many older East Coast cities, Washington, DC's aging water and sewer infrastructure was in dire need of major renovations and general maintenance.

Among other operational changes, DC WASA's finances were no longer tied to the District's overall budget. This marked a positive change for the organization and its customers since every dollar collected by DC WASA could then be reinvested into operations and capital improvements. Funding for operations, improvements and debt financing now comes through user fees, grants and the sale of revenue bonds.

In 2010, DC WASA initiated a rebranding campaign and is now known as DC Water.

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