DUNCAN, Okla. – The National Rural Water Association, the nation’s largest water utility organization with over 31,000 rural and small community members, applauds the federal budget, now that it has been signed by the President, for its support of USDA Water and Waste infrastructure funding.
The budget agreement includes $570 million for rural and small community water infrastructure funding throughout the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Utilities Service rural development water grant and loan initiatives. This funding level will support over $1 billion in rural and small community water projects next year and demonstrates Congress’ strong support for this important national initiative.
The USDA water infrastructure initiative is rated as one of the most cost-effective and beneficial programs in the Federal government. Approximately 70% of the dollars spent are loans which are repaid to the federal government with interest and 30% of the funding is distributed as grants that are needed to make specific projects affordable in neglected and impoverished areas.
That is the key to the value of this initiative: when we refer to water projects, what we are talking about is people’s health, rural communities’ viability and a clean environment. Drinking water and wastewater projects are the first-line of defense in protection of public health and environmental quality in rural areas. There is currently a funding backlog of over $2 billion in rural water projects needing funding to improve the lives of rural Americans.
“We are thankful for the strong support of Congress for this vital public health, environmental and economic development initiative that was demonstrated in the final Congressional budget agreement,” said NRWA President Steve Fletcher, General Manager of the Washington County Water Company in Nashville, Illinois. Most U.S. water utilities are small; approximately 92 percent of the country’s 50,366 community drinking water systems serve communities with fewer than 10,000 people and 80 percent of the country’s 16,255 wastewater systems serve fewer than 10,000 people. “Rural and small communities must continue to support their rural water associations that allow us to be heard in Congress on critical issues like funding for USDA rural water infrastructure.”