The City of Knox and other rural communities stand to lose a significant source of revenue under President Donald Trump’s proposed budget. It eliminates the USDA water and wastewater loan and grant program and shifts federal funding to the EPA state revolving loan fund.
The USDA program specifically targets communities with populations of 10,000 or less, and 85 percent of the projects they funded in 2016 were for communities with populations of 5,000 or less. By contrast, 75 percent of EPA revolving loan funds are given to systems serving populations of 10,000 or more.
The Knox City Council Tuesday authorized Clerk-Treasurer Jeff Houston to send a letter to U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski in support of rural water appropriation funding. He says it’s made a major difference for Knox.
“Our community would not have been able to obtain safe drinking water if it had not been for the loan and grant funding 27 years ago, and the training and technical assistance provided by the Alliance of Indiana Rural Water (AIRW) allows us to keep up with the Safe Drinking Water Act and Clean Water Act are especially useful.”
Houston adds AIRW Circuit Riders do lots of training for rural water and wastewater departments at a nominal cost. They cover topics like pipe repair, water loss and hydrant flushing, emergency response planning, cross connections, and troubleshooting and maintenance of pumps and lift stations. They also provide assistance with the money handling aspect of operating municipal utilities.
Additionally Houston says AIRW has helped the city to develop and update its wellhead protection program. Knox is currently in phase three of that effort, which protects the water sources for the city’s water towers. Houston estimates the city has saved more than $35,000 on that effort alone, thanks to the USDA.
He adds communities like Knox might be forced to raise utility rates to make up for cuts to the USDA water and wastewater loan program.