Wicker, Heitkamp Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Help Rural Water Systems Meet Federal Wastewater Rules

New Legislation Builds on Wicker-Heitkamp Bill Signed into Law in 2015 to Guarantee Rural Communities Have Safe, Clean Drinking Water

March 3, 2017

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and have introduced bipartisan legislation to make sure rural and small water systems have the technical training and assistance they need to improve wastewater treatment in rural communities. 

Building on a rural drinking water bill the senators got signed into law in 2015, the bipartisan Small and Rural Community Clean Water Technical Assistance Act would authorize two new technical assistance provisions to improve wastewater treatment in rural communities. One provision would provide $15 million a year over five years for technical assistance helping small communities affordably and effectively operate wastewater treatment systems, and another would allow states to set aside two percent of their Clean Water State Revolving Funds to assist communities in complying with federal rules and improving waste water quality.

“Addressing local water needs is an important but challenging responsibility for small and rural communities,” said Wicker. “They often incur much higher costs and have fewer resources than larger communities even though their water systems are held to the same standards. This bill would help hundreds of smaller communities in Mississippi – and thousands across the nation – by providing on-site technical assistance and education. I know firsthand the value of supporting rural America, including its ability to comply with proper water treatment standards.”

“Fighting for rural America is my priority every day in the U.S. Senate, which includes making sure wastewater in rural communities is treated appropriately so our towns remain safe,” said Heitkamp. “This bill would make sure rural communities in North Dakota and beyond have federal assistance and technical support to meet federal wastewater rules. Having grown up in a small town like Mantador, I know firsthand that rural water systems are foundational for communities across North Dakota. Our bipartisan bill to improve wastewater treatment builds on legislation we introduced last Congress—which was signed into law—to make sure rural water systems have the help they need so local communities get clean water.”

U.S. Senators John Boozman, R-Ark., Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, Al Franken, D-Minn., Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Jim Risch, R-Idaho, and Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, cosponsored the bill.

Wicker and Heitkamp’s bipartisan bill is the next step in their efforts to fight for clean water in rural communities. Most recently, the senators’ bipartisan legislation to make sure rural towns have federal assistance to offset the cost of complying with federal drinking water rules was signed into law in 2015. The Grassroots Rural and Small Community Water Systems Assistance Act provides $15 million in annual support for technical assistance and training to improve drinking water quality, which small communities often lack.

In addition to promoting clean water in rural areas, Wicker has long been an advocate of policy that looks out for America’s smaller communities. The most remote parts of our country need clean water, in addition to access to high-speed broadband and first-rate health care. Wicker has continued to champion these priorities in this Congress and sought solutions for rural areas across the country.

Heitkamp has long worked to encourage increased resources and assistance for rural areas. The 2014 Farm Bill—which Heitkamp played a leading role in writing, negotiating, and passing—placed a strong emphasis on supporting rural development projects. The law authorizes programs that upgrade and improve rural water systems, invest in expanding rural high-speed Internet, provide loans to consumers to improve energy efficiency through the new Rural Energy Savings Program, and reauthorize several other existing programs that are critical to supporting economic and community development in rural America.