USDA offers more than $4 billion in loans available for rural water infrastructure projects
Colorado is known for our mountains, our plains, our urban cities and our rural communities. Our state’s varied landscapes also translate into a unique perspective on issues. As the Colorado State Director for Rural Development with the United States Department of Agriculture, I’m traveling constantly across our beautiful state. The one commonality I’ve heard among residents, is the need for improved infrastructure. And, within that infrastructure discussion, the issue of clean and reliable water systems comes up every single time.
Not long ago, the United States was a world leader in infrastructure investments. Federal and private funding helped even the most remote communities obtain electricity, running water and access to the rest of the world 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.
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. 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’m 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 Colorado. In Northeast Colorado, the Town of Iliff’s wastewater treatment lagoons were out of compliance with the state and needed to be upgraded. Initially the town was awarded a grant from Rural Development to prepare a Preliminary Engineering and Environmental Report to identify the best alternative for a new wastewater treatment plant. Upon completion of the report, Rural Development in partnership with the Colorado Department of Local Affairs invested $1,730,500 for the Town’s new treatment plant and was able to provide rural residents in Logan County with a reliable sewage disposal system that will last the town for many years to come.
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. Visit us at http://www.rd.usda.gov/co and follow us on twitter @RD_Colorado.