USDA announces $352M in funding to rehabilitate U.S. rural water systems
The USDA has announced that it is providing more than $352 million in loans and grants to rehabilitate rural water and wastewater systems nationwide as well as make infrastructure improvements in rural villages across the state of Alaska.
ANCHORAGE, ALASKA, Oct. 29, 2014 -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has officially announced that it is providing more than $352 million in loans and grants to rehabilitate rural water and wastewater systems nationwide as well as make infrastructure improvements in rural villages across the state of Alaska. The funded projects will not only help ensure rural locations have access to clean water, but they will also create jobs and help communities retain and attract new businesses and families.
"These investments are critical for our health and safety, and in the long term for sustainable economic development," USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said. "Investments like these in the nation's water infrastructure also are critical to address the impact of climate change on our water supplies. The projects supported with these resources will ensure rural families have access to clean water and create jobs in communities across the country."
Climate change is putting more stress on municipal water systems, Vilsack noted. Many areas around the country have seen changes in rainfall, resulting in more floods and droughts, declines in snowpack and intense rain as well as more frequent and severe heat waves. All of these are placing fiscal strains on communities -- causing them to make more frequent and often costly repairs and upgrades.
Since 2009, USDA Rural Development has invested nearly $11 billion in new and improved water and wastewater infrastructure that has benefited nearly 15 million rural residents and almost 6 million households and businesses. USDA is providing $175 million in loans and $165 million in grants through the Water and Environmental Program. This is part of more than $1.5 billion USDA invested in rural water and wastewater projects during the 2014 Fiscal Year, which ended on September 30.
In Alaska, the city of Buckland is receiving a $45,000 grant to conduct a cost analysis for preliminary engineering and environmental reports for a proposed solid waste site. Further, the city of Edgerton, Wis., is receiving a $7.8-million loan and a $2.5-million grant to upgrade its 31-year-old water treatment facility. The city is under a schedule of compliance with the Department of Natural Resources. The new facility will allow the city to meet newly imposed discharge limits.
In addition to the investments to upgrade rural water and wastewater systems, Vilsack announced six grants totaling $12.1 million to help rural Alaskan villages make infrastructure improvements. The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium has been selected for a $5-million grant to remove dire sanitation conditions in the community of Akiachak. Many residents there lack indoor plumbing and must haul water and utilize honey buckets for waste disposal. The consortium will use the grant to construct sewer mains, build a lift station and bury water mains.
These investments are provided through USDA's Rural Utilities Service (RUS), which also administers infrastructure programs that fund broadband and rural electric systems to meet the needs of rural communities. USDA's infrastructure investments have had a profound impact on rural communities. This year alone, the Department provided nearly $10 million to improve water and waste systems to help 74,000 residents of drought-affected areas of rural California.