West Sacramento, Calif. – Rural Community Assistance Corporation (RCAC), national nonprofit Rural Community Assistance Partnership Incorporated (RCAP), and small utilities throughout New Mexico are celebrating the Regional Water System Resiliency Act’s (Senate Bill 1) passage, which represents a major milestone for underserved communities that seek improvements to their water infrastructure and services.

The Regional Water System Resiliency Act is set to become law on July 1, 2023. This legislation will provide community water systems with the tools to improve their capacity and tackle a range of technical, managerial and financial challenges. Supporters expect the bill to have a transformative impact on New Mexico as a whole.

“This bill’s passage represents a real step forward for New Mexico’s rural and Indigenous communities,” said Suzanne Anarde, RCAC Chief Executive Officer. “We’re excited about the positive and far-reaching improvements in water infrastructure and overall quality of life that this legislation will deliver to these communities.”

The legislation creates a new framework for community water systems to collaborate and streamlines regional processes, making it simpler to develop sustainable plans. Both urban and rural communities benefit from this law, which covers all drinking water and wastewater systems interested in regional collaboration. Rural community leaders, utility operators and managers will receive support to address common challenges, such as obtaining affordable supplies, sharing certified operator costs and reducing rate burdens for customers. This approach enhances a community’s ability to handle changes, including population and demographic shifts, natural disasters and public health emergencies. It also fosters cooperation among utilities, which allows them to work together to attain improved outcomes for all.

“This bill is a game-changer for New Mexico as it enables building economies of scale at the regional level, allowing communities to define what their future looks like as they achieve long-term sustainability and resiliency in the face of climate change,” said Olga Morales-Pate, RCAP Chief Executive Officer and a Las Cruces resident with years of experience in western regionalization initiatives.

RCAC and its national partner, RCAP, played a leading role to bring the Act to life. Community members, officials and leaders succeeded in passing the bill through dedicated advocacy and negotiations, which demonstrates their shared commitment to improving conditions in underserved communities.

“This decade-long effort involved several attempts and a lot of compromise, and I am so proud of the many communities who waited patiently for this day while working to pass legislation,” Morales-Pate continued. “Some communities are ready to start partnering once the law takes effect, and more will join them.”

The groundbreaking legislation serves as a model for other states and sets the stage for the forthcoming release of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s water restructuring rule under America’s Water Infrastructure Act (AWIA). The AWIA provisions will grant states and systems additional tools to explore system partnerships, which will complement the New Mexico law’s innovative approach and ultimately lead to better water service and infrastructure for communities in need.

The bill’s success is a testament to key contributors’ efforts, including those of Sen. Peter Wirth, Majority Floor Leader; Lorraine Montoya, Sen. Wirth’s Legislative Executive Manager; Rep. Susan Herrera; Sen. Liz Stefanics; and Ramon Lucero, RCAC Santa Fe Regional Manager. The Water Foundation and Thornburg Foundation provided funding support, while RCAP Board Member and The Apricot Tree President and CEO Rick Martinez acted as lobbyist. Both RCAC and RCAP applaud their work and deeply appreciate their support. State agencies including the New Mexico Environment Department and the Office of the State Engineer also played crucial roles.

Founded in 1978, RCAC seeks to collaboratively build the capacity of organizations that serve low-income people living in the rural West (13 states including Alaska and Hawaii). RCAC works in partnership with small rural and Indigenous communities and other local agencies to provide tools and resources necessary to improve their quality of life. RCAC offers a wide range of services to communities with fewer than 50,000 people including technical assistance and training for environmental infrastructure; affordable housing development; economic and leadership development; and financing to support community development. Since its inception, RCAC’s dedicated staff and active board have helped affect positive change in rural and Indigenous communities across the West. To learn more about RCAC, visit http://www.rcac.org

The Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) is a national network of non-profit partners working to provide technical assistance, training, resources, and support to rural communities across every state, the U.S. territories, and tribal lands. Through RCAP’s regional partners, more than 300 technical assistance providers (TAPs) build long-term, trusted relationships with thousands of communities across the country. To learn more about RCAP, visit http://www.rcap.org

RCAC Media contact:
Julia Helmreich, Director
Communications and Development
(916) 529-7563

RCAP Media contact:
Seth Johnson, Senior Communications Manager
(724) 986-9341