Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) introduced bipartisan legislation to help rural water and wastewater systems better prepare for and respond to natural disasters or other extreme weather events.
“Increasingly frequent natural disasters like wildfires and flooding have created new challenges for rural water utilities, and I’m working to get them the training and resources they need to prepare for disasters and keep their communities safe,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “My bipartisan legislation will help protect the rural drinking water and wastewater systems that thousands of Nevadans rely on.”
“Our rural water associations deserve credit for doing all they can to restore water and wastewater service after disasters, like the tornadoes we’ve experienced in Mississippi this year. Our bill would expand their capacity to do so by helping all rural systems with disaster preparedness and mitigation assistance,” Senator Hyde-Smith said. “I’m pleased to join Senator Cortez Masto in this bipartisan effort to address this problem effectively.”
The Rural Water System Disaster Preparedness and Assistance Act would create an assistance program at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to help rural water and wastewater utilities identify vulnerabilities, map water infrastructure, develop disaster protocols, and train employees for emergency and disaster response. This legislation is endorsed by the National Rural Water Association and Rural Community Assistance Partnership. The bill text is available here.
“The Rural Water System Disaster Preparedness and Assistance Act will vastly expand the critical emergency assistance provided to rural communities to prepare, respond, and address longer term recovery needs from disasters,” said National Rural Water Association CEO Matthew Holmes. “As we witness more frequent and intense natural disasters, this bill would provide essential preventive measures and response mechanisms to maintain water and wastewater services. On behalf of the National Rural Water Association, we applaud Senator Cortez Masto’s efforts for this important legislation to protect and enhance the public health of the residents of impacted rural communities.”
“RCAP proudly supports the Rural Water System Disaster Preparedness and Assistance Act, which will aid rural water systems in preparing for and responding to disasters,” said Olga Morales Pate, CEO of the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP). “It’s not a matter of if disaster will strike, but when, and rural systems must not be an afterthought. Local water and wastewater systems are essential infrastructure, and their proper function is critical for public health. RCAP applauds Sen. Cortez Masto for introducing this bill and looks forward to building on our 50-year history of providing technical assistance to rural communities by increasing climate resiliency and building capacity in emergency preparedness and response across the nation.”
Senator Cortez Masto is a strong supporter of Nevada’s rural and agricultural communities. She led the fight to protect family farms and ranches from an unfair tax hike. She has also introduced bipartisan legislation to bolster cyber protections for rural water systems and to put rural Western communities on an equal footing when it comes to applying for critical infrastructure grants. She’s also introduced bipartisan legislation to provide relief for taxpayers in states that have issued state-level disaster declarations.