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Celebrating Earth Day and Protecting the Environment in Rural America

Posted by USDA Rural Development Under Secretary Lisa Mensah in Rural
Apr 22, 2015
Kids playing with hose
Nothing is a basic as clean pure water for this generation and generations to come.

It’s a fact most of us learned in grammar school.  More than seventy percent of the earth’s surface is water.  On this 45th Earth Day, I can’t help but be proud to recognize the work that USDA Rural Development is doing to improve water quality and availability in Rural America.  Today, USDA is announcing over $112 million in loans and grants to rural communities across the country for better water and wastewater systems.

To recognize Earth Day, today I visited the rural community of Henderson, Maryland. The town’s water system recently failed completely, leaving the 146 residents of Henderson without water. However, Rural Development stepped in to help. USDA is providing the town with a $175,000 Emergency Community Water Assistance Grant to make critically needed repairs to the system.

I also visited Greensboro, Maryland, where USDA Rural Development has invested $6.2 million for construction of a new regional wastewater treatment plant serving the towns of Greensboro and nearby Goldsboro. The plant will serve several other rural communities in the area in the future.

Other examples abound. For instance, Crete, Nebraska, is receiving a $717,000 loan to help fund replacement of its wastewater treatment facility. The Crete plant, built in 1974, is unable meet Clean Water Act ammonia limits. The project is expected to be completed in 2016 and will benefit all of the town’s 6,000 or so residents. In Missouri, Rural Development is providing the city of Holts Summit with $1.6 million for a pump station at its wastewater treatment facility.  This will extend the collection system to five areas within the city that lack sewer service.

Wastewater plant
Helping rural America deal with waste water problems is just one way we celebrate Earth Day.

USDA Rural Development is helping places like these protect their local environment and natural resources through our Water and Environmental Programs, which provide funding for clean and reliable drinking water systems, sanitary sewage disposal, sanitary solid waste disposal, and storm water drainage to households and businesses in rural areas. 

Whether it comes to helping drought-stricken communities, helping remote rural Americans get their first indoor plumbing, or helping a small town finance improvements to its wastewater system, USDA Rural Development is helping these small, rural places thrive. 

USDA Rural Development can also help rural communities protect the environment through investments in renewable energy projects. Today, in recognition of Earth Day, 25 organizations have been selected for grants through our flagship renewable energy program, the Rural Energy for America Program. The grants will help agricultural producers and rural small businesses evaluate energy efficiency systems and determine how to incorporating renewable energy technologies into their operations.

But that’s not all we're doing for the environment.  Earlier this week, our Secretary Vilsack announced $72 million in investments to improve our electric infrastructure, including 3 solar power projects in rural North Carolina.  When online, these projects will generate 30 megawatts of clean, renewable electricity – enough power to meet the average annual consumption of 5,250 homes for a year.  

To learn more about how USDA Rural Development can help your rural community address environmental concerns, please visit us at

Man holding a glass bottle
USDA is investing in safe, accessible water and waste water facilities across rural America.
Category/Topic: Rural