USDA Rural Utilities Service, Water and Environment Programs declare Circuit Riders Essential Service
In response to the Presidential Declaration of a National Emergency concerning the Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) outbreak, USDA Rural Utilities Service, Water and Environmental Programs declared the Circuit Rider Drinking Water Technical Assistance Contract to be an essential government service.
Presidential Policy Directive PPD-21 identifies the water and wastewater systems sector as being a “critical infrastructure sector,” defined by Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, as “sectors whose assets, systems, and networks, whether physical or virtual, are considered so vital to the United States that their incapacitation or destruction would have a debilitating effect on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination thereof.”
NRWA is named in DHS’s Water and Wastewater Sector-Specific Plan as a Critical Infrastructure Partner and is a member of the Sector Coordinating Council.
The USDA WEP Circuit Rider contract is a critical component of the federal government’s ability to respond to the needs of rural systems, especially during emergencies and disasters in which potable water supplies and clean sanitation are at risk. At the state and local level, Circuit Riders are first and second responders, working collaboratively with emergency management response teams. For example, the Circuit Rider contract is included among excepted contractor services during a lapse in federal government operations. The declaration of this national emergency requires the continued provision of these services.
For these reasons, the U.S. Government deemed Circuit Riders and essential support staff, as determined by the NRWA, to be essential and directed NRWA to continue performing all duties as provided for in the contract, with no lapse in services, during this national emergency.
During this time Circuit Riders are authorized to provide assistance remotely when possible, to include the use of telephone and web-based technology, to mitigate public health and safety risks. In emergency situations Circuit Riders will still provide on-site assistance. Any on-site assistance will be carried out within the social distancing guidelines issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The public health and well-being of our nation’s rural residents depends on uninterrupted access to safe drinking water. Rural water systems provide critically important, life-saving infrastructure by providing safe drinking water and clean sanitation at millions of homes across the United States and territories.
National and State Rural Water Associations are dedicated to ensuring the continuity of drinking water services and wastewater treatment in rural areas during this time of crisis.