Modern Infrastructure is a Foundation for Economic Growth and Prosperity

By Dr. Carrie Castille, Louisiana Director, USDA Rural Development

 Dr Carrie Castille

Dr Carrie Castille

In Louisiana, approximately 58% of water systems are over 50 years old and need to be replaced. In serious cases, deteriorating systems can result in public health issues. Modern, reliable water infrastructure is vital not only to public health, but also essential to the economic vitality of small rural communities.

During the LMA Annual Convention, USDA Rural Development (RD) along with members of the LA Rural Water Infrastructure Committee (LRWIC) participated in a rural water roundtable discussion. Municipal leaders were afforded the opportunity to ask questions to address aging water systems and funding opportunities that many small struggling communities are facing today. We are working to bring resources together in a coordinated and collaborative effort to address ongoing issues with declining public water systems in rural communities.

Through RD’s Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant program, funding is available to assist small rural communities with replacement or construction of water and sewage systems to obtain clean and reliable drinking water in rural communities. Funds may be used for legal and engineering fees, land acquisition, capitalized interest, equipment, and start-up operations and maintenance. A rural community with fewer than 10,000 people is eligible to apply for funding. Applicants can be public bodies, non-profit corporations and federally recognized Indian tribes.

RD water programs are making a difference here in Louisiana. For example, the Poland Water Association, Inc. is receiving a $1 million loan and a $161,000 grant to construct two water wells. The booster station will be restored to service with a new chlorination facility and a pad-mounted natural gas generator to provide emergency power.

The Alberta Water System, Inc. will use a $164,000 loan and a $1.5 million grant to construct an additional well. Water meters will be replaced with radio-read meters to reduce water loss and carbon treatment systems will be added to booster stations to mitigate disinfection byproducts. Additional funding includes a $30,000 RD Special Evaluation Assistance for Rural Communities and Households grant and a $2,000 contribution from the water system.

The Town of Delcambre will use a $291,000 loan and a $183,000 grant to upgrade water distribution lines and install meters that service residents in Vermilion Parish. In FY 2015, the project received a $1,722,000 USDA loan and a $1,179,220 USDA grant.

The Lena Water System, Inc. will receive a $3 million loan to adjust the discharge pressure for the booster stations, construct two water wells and a ground storage tank with booster pumps and install radio-read meters.

Eligible rural communities and water districts can apply online for funding to maintain, modernize or build water and wastewater systems. They can visit the interactive RD Apply tool, or contact the RD Community Programs Department by emailing jared.hicks@la.usda.gov or (318) 473-7940.

We appreciate the opportunity to work with our municipalities to help support economic development and prosperity.  If you have any questions, please contact me, carrie.castille@la.usda.gov or (318) 473.7921, to let us know how we can help.