US Congress: Rural water systems program funding up for renewal

Pueblo West
Pueblo West

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Federal funding to provide training and technical assistance to rural water providers is up for renewal.

“In their efforts to provide clean drinking water to Coloradans, rural water providers don’t have access to the tools and resources needed to comply with the Safe Water Drinking Act,” said U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., who is among 14 senators from both parties sponsoring legislation to renew funding.

The Colorado Rural Water Association, headquartered in Pueblo West, administers the funding in the state. It serves about 3,500 small rural water systems, which are defined as those serving less than 3,300 population.

“It does not have to be a town,” said Tom Wall, the deputy executive director of the associa­tion. “It can be a special district or even a mobile home park.”

Wall attended a rally of the National Rural Water Association in Washington, D.C., earlier this year at which several lawmakers were approached about the importance of the program.

“We are really pleased that Senator Bennet was able to sign on as a sponsor,” Wall said.

The CRWA was formed 34 years ago, and started by serving water providers in Southeastern Colorado. Since then, it has grown into the primary statewide training agency for small water providers.

“Over the past 34 years, we have provided 90 percent of them with assistance, and in any single year reach about half of them,” Wall said.

The group also trains professionals who provide direct services for small water providers under contract.

The federal funding amounts to $600,000-$700,000 annually.

The federal funds provide money for a trainer, two circuit riders, a wastewater technician, a coordinator for energy efficiency assistance under a pilot program and a source water protection specialist.

State funds total about $100,000 annually for source water protection.

“In light of the fires and floods Colorado experienced, source water has an become important area,” Wall said, As systems age and water quality laws change, training has become more important than ever, he added.

“There aren’t as many young people coming into it, and those who do really need the training,” Wall said.

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