Wicker’s Rural Water Bill Headed to Senate Floor

Proposal Would Help Small Communities Meet Federal Safe Drinking Water Standards

April 30, 2015

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., a member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, on Tuesday praised the Committee’s unanimous approval of the “Grassroots Rural and Small Community Water Systems Act,” S. 611. Wicker introduced the legislation earlier this year with Senator Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D.

“This program is designed to assist the small communities that would very much like to comply with federal regulations on safe drinking water but simply don’t have the resources,” Wicker said. “Under the new legislation, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would have the authority to direct funding to nonprofit organizations for the on-site regional training and assistance that these small and rural areas need.”

“Often we take for granted that we have clean drinking water in our homes – but in our rural communities, access to clean water isn’t always a given,” said Heitkamp. “Every town in every county across America should have the ability to access the technical assistance they need to keep up with clean drinking water standards – no matter how few and far between they may be. Today our bipartisan bill moved a step forward, reinforcing that improving and protecting drinking water for rural families just makes sense for families throughout the country, including in rural America.”

The bipartisan legislation would help small and rural communities comply with safe drinking water regulations by reauthorizing the Safe Drinking Water Act’s (SDWA) technical assistance and training provisions for $15 million per year over the next six years – the same as was previously authorized. Wicker and Heitkamp introduced similar legislation during the 113th Congress. The last authorization of the bill expired in 2004.

More than 50,000 small and rural communities, comprising more than 90 percent of the drinking water supplies in the country, are responsible for providing safe, clean water to their citizens. The EPA’s technical assistance and training programs assist these communities in securing the necessary technical expertise to improve and protect their water resources. The initiative has been effective in ensuring implementation of the SDWA in rural areas.

The bill now awaits consideration by the full Senate.

Cosponsors of S. 611 include: Sens. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Roy Blunt, R-Mo., John Boozman, R-Ark., Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., Al Franken, D-Minn., Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Jerry Moran, R-Kan., Jim Risch, R-Idaho, Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, and Jon Tester, D-Mont.