By Mariamne Beuscher, communications intern
President Trump’s preliminary 2018 budget, America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again, calls for more than $50 billion in cuts to non-defense programs.
Rural advocates have expressed concern over the President’s spending proposal, which will adversely impact programs that support rural communities; including the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s water and wastewater loan program. The budget proposes to entirely eliminate the program and suggests that rural communities can be better served by private sector financing and alternative federal funding sources, such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) State Revolving Funds. However, EPA also faces a 31 percent funding cut and typically funds projects for large water systems.
If congress does enact the proposed cuts, “I believe that it would be very hard for some of our small water systems to operate – to get funding to replace infrastructure,” Bill Conor, executive director of the New Mexico Rural Water Association, told the Albuquerque Journal.
Currently 75 percent of EPA state revolving fund loans are made to systems serving populations of 10,000 or more while 92 percent of all U.S. water supplies serve populations of 10,000 or less (according to The National Rural Water Association estimates).
A consequence of the President’s proposed budget will be that small water systems are in direct competition with larger systems that have more available resources and typically have better access to private funds.
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