WASHINGTON, D.C., Feb. 20, 2020 – Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that will help rural water systems face the challenges of aging infrastructure, workforce shortages, increasing costs, limited management capacity and declining rate bases. Through this MOA, USDA and EPA will conduct joint activities to help rural water systems continue to provide access to safe drinking water.
“We are pleased to continue this important work with EPA to support rural water and waste infrastructure,” USDA Rural Utilities Service Administrator Chad Rupe said. “Under the leadership of President Trump and Agriculture Secretary Perdue, USDA is committed to working collaboratively with our federal partners to help rural systems thrive and serve their communities, because when rural America thrives, all of America thrives.”
David Ross, EPA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Water, added, “Rural water systems play a key role in the lives of all Americans. Investing resources in rural system infrastructure and management supports EPA’s goal of ensuring that rural communities have the infrastructure necessary to become sustainable, protect public health and support the rural economy.”
To ensure that rural systems have a strong foundation to address 21st century challenges, this MOA formalizes EPA and USDA’s ongoing collaboration to help implement innovative strategies and tools so rural water systems can achieve long-term sustainability.
This MOA focuses on four key areas. First, EPA and USDA will continue supporting sustainability and resilience by providing resources such as training and education to incorporate these strategies into utility management. Second, the agencies will continue to support water system partnerships by educating communities and utilities on the array of tools that are available to increase sustainability. Third, the MOA will also support the water sector workforce, in part through promotional initiatives to raise awareness of rural water sector careers. Finally, EPA and USDA will continue supporting compliance with drinking water and clean water regulations, including by making these rural systems a funding priority.
This action supports EPA’s 50th anniversary and its February theme of protecting America’s waters – including surface water protection, safe drinking water and water infrastructure investments.
More than 97 percent of the nation’s 153,000 public drinking water systems serve fewer than 10,000 people, and 78 percent of the 15,000 wastewater treatment plants treat less than one million gallons per day. These small systems are often in rural settings and face unique challenges in providing affordable drinking water and wastewater services that meet federal and state regulations as well as ensuring that operations are sustainable in the future. Strategic approaches are needed to help rural areas improve the quality of water.
In April 2017, President Donald J. Trump established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities. In January 2018, Secretary Perdue presented the Task Force’s findings to President Trump. These findings included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America. Increasing investments in rural infrastructure is a key recommendation of the task force. To view the report in its entirety, please view the Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity (PDF, 5.4 MB). In addition, to view the categories of the recommendations, please view the Rural Prosperity infographic (PDF, 190 KB).
USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.