Phil Cowee: USDA has funding for rural water systems

Phil Cowee

Phil Cowee

Not long ago, the United States was a world leader in infrastructure investments. Federal and private funding helped even the most remote communities obtain electricity, running water and access to the rest of the world through telecommunications.

However, recent years have not followed the same trend, and too many rural communities have been left behind. The need for improvement is great, especially for rural water and wastewater systems.

To put this in perspective, the American Water Works Association estimates that more than $600 billion is needed over the next 20 years to upgrade our nation’s water and wastewater systems. Unfortunately, many small and rural water systems lack access to affordable financing.

But there is hope for the future. This year, USDA Rural Development has more than $4 billion in direct loans available now to help rural communities build or upgrade water infrastructure. This is a substantial increase from last year. In 2017, USDA helped more than 2.5 million rural residents get access to upgraded water and wastewater systems. I am excited to see how many more people we can help with this unprecedented funding opportunity.

I encourage rural community leaders and water district operators to apply now for this assistance before the Sept. 30 deadline. USDA state and field offices are great resources to use during the application process, and we have technical assistance providers with water and waste expertise that can help complete rural communities’ applications.

USDA’s support for rural water infrastructure is already making a big impact here in Nevada. Most recently, Storey County has benefitted by investing in water and waste water system improvements. Yerington is updating water systems, Winnemucca has completed a waste water treatment plant, Reno Sparks Indian Colony and Lovelock Colony have both replaced water lines using USDA funding. Many rural communities are in better shape thanks to USDA funding, but we can do more.

I encourage water districts and rural communities to contact Cheryl Couch, our Community Programs Director at our State Office in Carson City, to explore options for infrastructure improvements. Cheryl is at 775-887-1222, ext. 4760, or by email at

USDA is eager to partner with you in this effort to modernize water infrastructure in our state’s rural communities.

Phil Cowee is the State Director of USDA Rural Development, based in Carson City. Phil can be reached at 775-887-1222, ext. 4751.


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