Tuesday, June 23, 2015


WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Reps. Gregg Harper (R–Miss.) and Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) introduced a bill today that seeks to ensure the availability of safe and affordable drinking water in rural communities.

This bill would reauthorize and modernize much needed technical assistance and compliance training for small water systems to meet federal compliance.

“Without these services, safe and clean water for rural communities and small municipalities throughout Mississippi would be put in jeopardy,” Harper said.

A federal law that passed in 1996 authorized technical assistance for small and rural communities to assist them in complying with agency regulations issued under the “Safe Drinking Water Act.” The program is designed to make sure that federal regulations do not overwhelm the resources of rural water systems.

“This bill provides smaller communities – the exact areas intended to be reached by this program – with the necessary resources to fulfill federal clean water laws,” added Harper, who serves as Vice Chairman of the Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy.

“Our small, local water utilities are tasked with providing clean, safe water to keep families healthy and businesses profitable. However, they are often burdened with maintaining outdated facilities, predicting and preventing problems and certifying plans are up to code with limited resources. That is why we introduced this legislation; to provide the immediate technical assistance it takes to make sure these smaller systems are as strong as they can be. I thank Congressman Harper for his efforts on this issue and look forward to its swift passage,” said Rep. Tonko, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy.

The National Rural Water Association, America’s largest community-based water organization, praised the efforts by Reps. Harper and Tonko.

“Water quality is one of the most pressing public health concerns in rural Mississippi and is essential for long-term economic sustainability of every community. However, due to a lack of economies of scale, it is often more difficult for small towns to maintain their water infrastructure, comply with federal rules and afford the latest technology,” said Kirby Mayfield, Executive Director of the Mississippi Rural Water Association. Congressman Harper has been leading the effort in Congress to help small communities provide safe drinking water to all their citizens by making sure technical resources and education are available directly to small communities. All small communities want to provide safe water and this legislation will make sure they have the resources to do it. We greatly appreciate the Congressman’s help in sponsoring legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives that will benefit every small or rural community in the country.

“We are grateful for Congressman Tonko's help and assistance to the country’s over 50,000 small and rural communities that are trying to provide safe and clean water to their citizens every day. The Congressman's bill ensures that the most helpful and environmentally beneficial initiatives are available to rural communities. This approach is truly unique in the federal effort to protect the environment because it accomplishes progressive environmental protection with the support of the local communities,” said Pat Scalera, Executive Director of the New York Rural Water Association. “Congressman Tonko recently toured a number of small communities in New York to see, first-hand, the challenges and demands placed on water infrastructure. When enacted, his legislation is will have an immediate positive impact on drinking water quality in New York and the other states.”

In addition to being the main source of compliance aid, rural water technical assistance contributes directly to emergency response efforts when communities rely on assistance from surrounding state rural water systems.

Nationwide, over 93 percent of community water systems serve a population of less than 10,000 residents.