USDA, EPA create partnership to improve drinking water

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced a national partnership to improve rural drinking water and wastewater systems.  Across the country, small water and sewage treatment facilities with limited funding and resources often face challenges due to rising costs and aging equipment and pipes. Today�s agreement will target federal resources and provide training to support communities that need assistance most.

�The agreement we are announcing today represents an exciting partnership between USDA and EPA that will greatly enhance our investments in water systems and also develop a skilled workforce to oversee them,� said USDA Rural Utilities Service Administrator Jonathan Adelstein.  �By working together, our agencies will strengthen their capacity to provide rural residents with safe, clean, well-managed water and wastewater systems for years to come.�

�EPA and USDA have joined forces to leverage our expertise and resources to improve drinking water and wastewater systems in small towns across the country,� said EPA Acting Assistant Administrator for Water, Nancy Stoner. �A critical part of this agreement is to ensure that we have a well trained, professional workforce available to replace workers when they leave or retire.�

Under the agreement, EPA and USDA will work together to promote jobs by targeting specific audiences,  providing training for new water careers and coordinating outreach efforts that will bring greater public visibility to the workforce needs of the industry, and develop a new generation of trained water professionals. EPA and USDA will also facilitate the exchange of successful recruitment and training strategies among stakeholders including states and water industries.

In June, President Obama signed an Executive Order establishing the first White House Rural Council, chaired by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. Secretary Vilsack is working to coordinate USDA programs across the government and encourage public-private partnerships to improve economic conditions and create jobs in rural communities. Today�s agreement is an example of how government can work together across federal agencies to utilize resources that will help rebuild and revitalize America's rural communities.

Since taking office, President Obama's Administration has taken significant steps to promote prosperity and improve the lives of rural Americans. For instance, the Administration has set goals to modernize infrastructure by providing broadband access to 10 million Americans, provide improved water service to 1.8 million rural residents, expand educational opportunities for students in rural areas, and provide affordable health care. In the long term, these unparalleled rural investments will help ensure that America's rural communities are, self-sustaining, and thriving economically.

USDA, through its rural development mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure and facility programs through a national network of state and local offices. Rural development has an existing portfolio of more than $153 billion in loans and loan guarantees to improve the quality of life through economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers.

For more information about the EPA-USDA agreement visit: http://water.epa.gov/type/drink/pws/smallsystems/index.cfm

Information about USDA�s Water and Environmental Programs for rural communities: http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/UWEP_HomePage.html

Information on EPA�s programs and tools for small water systems:  http://water.epa.gov/type/drink/pws/smallsystems/index.cfm 

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