NRWA Praises Rural and Small Community Water Provisions in House Agriculture Committee Farm Bill

DUNCAN, Okla. — The National Rural Water Association is grateful for the beneficial water-related provisions in the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (H.R. 2). The bill was introduced in the House of Representatives on April 12, 2018 by House Agriculture Committee Chairman, Mike Conaway from Texas.

“Over the last 70 years, through the assistance authorized in the Farm Bill, USDA’s rural water initiatives have made great advancements in the standard of living in rural America,” NRWA CEO Sam Wade stated. “These rural water infrastructure initiatives have been the engine of economic development and agricultural-related advances in rural communities, and they have provided for dramatic improvements to the quality of life, the environment and public health.”

The Chairman’s legislation addresses priority small and rural community water issues with the following provisions:

Section 6204; Water, Waste Disposal, and Wastewater Facility Loans and Grants: Authorizes U.S. Department of Agriculture’s rural water loans and grants which are essential to helping small and rural communities overcome the limited economies of scale and low median household incomes to provide safe and affordable drinking water and sanitation. The initiative funds construction and expansion of drinking water and wastewater infrastructure through grants and loans provided at reasonable rates and terms. Without this assistance, many communities would not have the means to construct new water systems, expand existing systems, or comply with federal mandates. Since 1940, USDA’s rural water program has made 96,724 loans and grants totaling $54.6 billion.

Section 6205 & 6206; Rural Water and Wastewater Circuit Rider Program: Authorizes primary technical assistance for local communities to operate safe and clean drinking water systems and helps to ensure compliance with current water regulations. Circuit riders are in the field every day helping small and rural communities with water system compliance, operations, maintenance, management, training and disaster recovery. According to small and rural communities, this initiative is the most effective compliance assistance with the Safe Drinking Water Act and Clean Water Act. Small communities want to ensure a supply of quality water and stay in compliance; Circuit Riders provide them the shared technical resources to accomplish it. The Circuit Rider concept was designed by Congress to allow small communities access to technical expertise that is available to larger communities. Each community’s water infrastructure is unique, which means technical assistance must be available to address a community’s particular problem.

Section 2402; Grassroots Source Water Protection Program: Authorizes the technical assistance necessary to assist rural communities in the implementation of source water protection plans. This is the only statewide local community-based initiative ensuring environmentally progressive local land-use decisions to protect drinking water sources from potential sources of contamination including non-point sources or runoff. This program demonstrates that locally supported drinking water protection plans are preferable and more effective than expanding federal regulatory control over farmers.

Section 6205: Authorizes a new federal initiative to allow Circuit Riders to assist local communities with long-term water infrastructure sustainability by providing third party independent capacity/sustainability assessments that consider financial and operational options, partnerships, consolidation, regionalization, governance polices, contracting for services, workforce development, increasing resources and other options. NRWA supports partnerships and consolidation when it makes local economic sense because growing economies of scale result in lower cost to the consumer than operating independent water utilities. Rural water technical assistance has led to or assisted in more communities consolidating their water supplies than any program, policy or organization.

Small and rural communities have an important public responsibility of supplying safe drinking water and sanitation every second of every day while complying with all applicable federal Safe Drinking Water Act and Clean Water Act regulations. Most U.S. water utilities are small. More than 91% of the country’s approximately 50,000 drinking water systems serve communities with fewer than 10,000 people and approximately 80% of the country’s 16,000 plus wastewater systems serve fewer than 10,000 people.

CLICK HERE  to read the full legislative text of the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018.