Southern Rural Water systems at Risk
Water systems play an essential role in the success of rural America.
A house agriculture subcommittee’s recent hearing aimed at expanding opportunities for growth and investment in rural America was reminded that rural water systems, especially in the rural south, are a risk.
Ines Polonius, CEO of Communities Unlimited testified before the Subcommittee on Commodity Exchanges, Energy, and Credit that while loans and grants have long been a lifeline for many in the rural south, more must be done to protect vital rural water systems.
Polonius: "In the US, there are 140K active water systems serving communities of less than 10K people.COVID19 has exacerbated the challenges these people face. A survey conducted in May of 202o indicated a revenue loss of between $3.6 and $5.5 billion for small rural systems across the country."
Polonius said federal funding for USDA rural development programs make up just 8% of its discretionary budget yet it is exactly these programs that are the lifeline to rural communities as they struggle to recover from the impacts of COVID-19.
Communities Unlimited is a Community Development Financial Institution that serves small underserved businesses in the southern United States, an area with many rural communities, a high minority population, high poverty, and food insecurity.
Polonius: "A year later we know that most systems expended all of their reserves and many are no longer able to keep up with the needed maintenance, nor loan payments."