Bipartisan Measure Would Create Emergency Preparedness & Response Program for Water and Wastewater Utilities

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) is the lead Republican sponsor of legislation introduced Tuesday by U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) to improve the ability of rural water and wastewater systems to prepare for and respond to natural disasters or other extreme weather events.

The Rural Water System Disaster Preparedness and Assistance Act (S.2917) would establish an emergency preparedness and response technical assistance program within the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide grants to assist associations that operate rural water or wastewater systems in preparing for and responding to natural or man-made disasters.

“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,” said Hyde-Smith, who addressed rural water system emergency and disaster resilience at a 2023 Farm Bill hearing in July.  “I’m pleased to join Senator Cortez Masto in this bipartisan effort to address this problem effectively.”

“Aging infrastructure and more frequent natural disasters have left many rural water utilities unprepared for an emergency, and I’m working to get them the training and resources they need to keep their communities safe,” said Cortez Masto.  “My bipartisan legislation will protect the rural drinking water and wastewater systems that hundreds of thousands of Nevadans rely on.”

S.2917 would, among other things, help rural water and wastewater utilities identify vulnerabilities, map water infrastructure, develop disaster protocols, and train employees for emergency and disaster response.

The Mississippi Rural Water Association, National Rural Water Association, and Rural Community Assistance Partnership endorse this legislation.