USDA offers help for water infrastructure
Michiganders are understandably concerned about water quality. Recent discoveries of unusual pollutants have stirred questions about how we can better protect our environment and ensure clean drinking water for ourselves and future generations.
Not long ago, the United States was a world leader in infrastructure investments. However, recent years have not followed the same trend, and too many rural communities have been left behind. The need for improvement is great, especially for rural water and wastewater systems.
To put this in perspective, the American Water Works Association estimates that more than $600 billion is needed over the next 20 years to upgrade our nation’s water and wastewater systems. Unfortunately, many small and rural water systems lack access to affordable financing.
But there is hope for the future. This year, USDA Rural Development has more than $4 billion in direct loans available now to help rural communities build or upgrade water infrastructure. That is a substantial increase from last year. In 2017, USDA helped more than 2.5 million rural residents get access to upgraded water and wastewater systems. I am excited to see how many more people we can help with this unprecedented funding opportunity.
I encourage rural community leaders and water district operators to apply now for this assistance before the Sept. 30 deadline. USDA state and field offices are great resources to use during the application process, and we have technical assistance providers with water and waste expertise that can help complete rural communities’ applications.
USDA’s support for rural water infrastructure is already making a big impact here in Michigan, with more than $45 million in funding obligated since May. Those improvements are taking shape across the whole state, reaching from the Keweenaw Peninsula down to Monroe County and from the shores of Lake Michigan to the Thumb.
Water districts and rural communities can apply for USDA loans electronically using the interactive RDApply tool on the USDA Rural Development website (rd.usda.gov). Also, USDA state and field offices are great resources to use during the application process. Their locations and contact information can also be found on the Rural Development website.
USDA is eager to partner with you in this effort to modernize water infrastructure in our state’s rural communities.
Jason Allen is State Director for USDA Rural Development in Michigan