WASHINGTON, Aug. 8- 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.
The partnership, “Promoting Sustainable Rural Water and Wastewater Systems,” is a five-year agreement between USDA and EPA that outlines four project goals. Each goal requires funding for information distribution, training and education for small water and wastewater systems. The agreement focuses on small water and sewage treatment facilities with limited funding in an effort to increase federal resources and training available to them. 

Funding for training and information distribution will be provided for the following areas: sustainable utility management practice, system partnerships, promoting careers in water service and water and wastewater rule requirements. 

"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," said USDA Rural Utilities Service Administrator, Jonathan Adelstein.

According to the memorandum, more than 97 percent of the nation’s 160,000 public water systems serve fewer than 10,000 people and 78 percent of the 15,000 wastewater treatment plants are less than one million gallons per day. The agreement addresses challenges, including financial resources, aging infrastructure and workforce shortages, which many of these small water systems face.

"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," said EPA Acting Assistant Administrator for Water, Nancy Stoner.

According to information from the American Water Works Association, 37 percent of water utility workers and 32 percent of wastewater utility workers will be eligible for retirement within the next 10 years. The memorandum also referenced information from the U.S. Department of Labor, which projects that demand for water and wastewater utility workers will increase 20 percent from 2008-2018. 

Today’s press release from USDA described the efforts to promote jobs under the agreement 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.”

“Investments in small system infrastructure support our long-term national goal of ensuring that rural communities have the basic infrastructure to become sustainable and protect the rural economy and public health,” reads the memorandum.

The memorandum does not outline specific monetary values reserved for this commitment. 

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


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