Not long ago, the United States was a world leader in infrastructure investments. Public and private funding helped even the most remote communities obtain electricity, running water, and economic opportunity through telecommunications.
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.
For generations, through funding provided by Congress, USDA’s water initiatives have made great advancements in the standard of living in rural Utah and across the U.S. These rural water infrastructure investments have been the engine for economic opportunity and agriculture advancements across the rural landscape. In the second most arid state in the nation, water investments are the foundation for rural prosperity, public health, and the environment.
This year, USDA Rural Development has more than $4 billion in direct loans available now to help rural communities build or upgrade water infrastructure. This 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 can help here in Utah to add to that number.
Over the past two years USDA has invested more than $27 million in water/wastewater infrastructure for several small communities throughout Utah. For example, last year we provided the Spanish Valley Water and Sewer Improvement District with a loan and grant combination totaling $4,780,000 to make critical improvements to the drinking water systems in the towns they serve. By making these developments, which include construction of a new water tank and replacing water distribution lines, they can meet the needs of growing rural communities and, more importantly, ensure the water in our desert towns runs cleanly and reliably.
USDA Rural Development’s water loans and grants help rural communities overcome economic disadvantages to provide safe and affordable drinking water and sanitation. The funds are available for construction and expansion of drinking water and wastewater infrastructure through grants and loans with reasonable rates and terms.
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, our state and field offices are great resources to use during the application process. We have eight offices throughout the state to serve you and you may find contact information on our website: www.rd.usda.gov/ut.
USDA is eager to partner with you in this effort to improve and modernize water infrastructure in Utah’s rural communities.
Randy N. Parker
Utah State Director
USDA Rural Development