Democratic News

Bipartisan Bill To Help Rural Communities With Water Needs


The chairman and ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Monday introduced legislation to help small, rural communities throughout the West deal with the demand for water infrastructure improvements.


“The scarcity of water in many rural communities in the West has reached a crisis point,” said Chairman Pete Domenici.  “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.”


“Water is the lifeblood of all communities, but in the West this resource is often in short supply,” added Jeff Bingaman, the committee’s ranking member.  “Communities want to plan to meet their future water needs with some level of certainty, but water projects are expensive and often out of reach.  This legislation will make investments in water infrastructure, in areas where it is most needed, a possibility 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 2000-2019 will range from $331 billion to $450 billion.  In many instances,  small and rural communities lack the bonding capacity to raise the money needed 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 provides a Federal backing of loans taken out by small communities for municipal and industrial water infrastructure projects.  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 loan-eligible towns with populations 50,000 or less.


Co-sponsors of the bill include Sens. Robert Bennett (R-UT), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Tim Johnson (D-SD).


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Bill Wicker

Democratic Communications Director

Senate Energy & Natural Resources