Washington, DC- Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Pete V. Domenici and Ranking Member Jeff Bingaman introduced legislation today to address the urgent demand for water infrastructure in small and rural western communities.
Chairman Domenici’s statement:
"The scarcity of water in many rural communities in the West has reached a crisis point. This bill offers desperate communities help to build new water infrastructure and rehabilitate aging water works. For many communities, these guarantees will mean the difference between decades of prosperity and the prospect of becoming a ghost town."
Ranking Member Bingaman’s statement:
"Water is the lifeblood of all communities, but in the West this precious resource is often in short supply. Many smaller communities would like to be planning to meet their future water needs with some level of certainty. but water projects are expensive and typically out of reach. The purpose of this legislation is to make investments in water infrastructure a possibility where it is needed throughout the West."
The bill addresses the inability of many rural communities to afford new water projects. In a 2002 report, the Environmental Protection Agency estimated that capital needs for clean water in the United States from 2000 to 2019 will range from $331 billion to $450 billion. In many cases, small and rural communities lack the bonding capacity to raise the capital required for these projects.
The "Rural Water Supply Act of 2005" creates within the Bureau of Reclamation a loan guarantee program for water infrastructure and streamlines the process for assessing water infrastructure needs. The loan guarantee program established by the bill provides a federal backing of loans taken out by small communities for municipal and industrial water infrastructure. The bill also expedites the appraisal and feasibility study process within the Bureau of Reclamation to allow communities to study the best approach to meet their water supply needs. The legislation is intended to help towns with populations under 50,000 that meet certain loan criteria.
Co-sponsors of the bill include Senators Bennett (UT), Murkowski (AK) and Johnson (SD).