The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced a grant of $3.75 million to the nonprofit National Rural Water Association (NRWA) to implement a new initiative to help prevent source water pollution in 33 states.
"The Bush Administration is committed to providing programs that promote environmental stewardship," Veneman said. "This program will help producers install voluntary measures to promote safe drinking water."
To commemorate the event, Farm Service Agency Administrator James R. Little presented a check to NRWA representatives to kick off the new initiative known as the Source Water Protection Program. The Source Water Protection Program is authorized the 2002 Farm Bill.
Through the two-year program, NRWA will hire for each selected state full-time Rural Source Water technicians, knowledgeable and experienced in rural issues. The technicians will work with FSA county executive directors and state conservation specialists with USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service to identify priority areas where local pollution prevention efforts are needed most.
In addition, the technicians will facilitate the creation of local teams comprised of citizens with diverse backgrounds who will collaborate in the development of Rural Source Water Protection plans to promote clean groundwater.
Rural Source Water Protection plans will outline voluntary measures that farmers, ranchers and other producers can administer on their lands to prevent source water pollution. Voluntary measures may range from producers storing pesticides or other substances in more secure containers to relocating waste lagoons.
Working at the grassroots level, local team members will be able to inform and educate producers about source water protection measures that benefit landowners and their communities. State rural water associations will provide resources and other assistance to local teams when help is needed.
Additionally, the plans will establish steering committees to evaluate voluntary practices implemented by local producers.
The Source Water Protection Program will be implemented in the following states: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin. The selected states were chosen based on objective technical criteria relating to water quality and population.
According to the NRWA, groundwater is the primary source of drinking water for some 44,000 communities in the United States.