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On the Frontlines of Climate Change: Building a More Resilient Rural America

Posted by USDA Rural Development Staff in Rural
Apr 21, 2022
A female firefighter

Rural Americans are on the frontlines of climate change impacts and increasingly severe weather that threatens their health, safety and livelihoods. That’s why USDA Rural Development stands ready to offer resources to help tackle the climate crisis, rebuild communities that have been hit by disaster and equip them with the tools to become more resilient than ever before.

This week, as we celebrate Earth Day, we are proud to highlight some of the many USDA programs that keep people in rural America resilient and their communities sustainable in the face of natural disasters and severe weather.

Investing in Preparedness and Resiliency: A Community in Wisconsin Mitigates Future Flooding

The Village of Ontario experienced recurring floods that caused significant damage to its infrastructure. In 2021, USDA Rural Development invested $900,000 through the Water & Waste Disposal Loan and Grant program to help leaders of the community build a plan to mitigate future flooding and create a more sustainable community.

The project helped the village build infrastructure in areas that are more resilient to natural disaster. Funds were used to build water and sewer mains for new commercial and residential areas located outside of the floodplain for businesses, single-family homes and apartments. Investments like this one ensure the health, safety and livelihoods of people in rural areas are protected for generations to come.

Building Back Better and Stronger: Communities Hit by Hurricanes in Puerto Rico Rebuild for a More Resilient Future

Safe and reliable wastewater infrastructure is a critical resource for every community, especially in times of natural disaster. In 2017, Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated many communities in Puerto Rico. As they continue to rebuild, debris from demolished and damaged properties have caused an unprecedented amount of waste disposal in the communities’ landfill. USDA invested $17.3 million through the Water & Waste Disaster Disposal Loan and Grant program to make improvements to the landfill.

Similarly, the aftermath of Hurricane Maria caused a tremendous increase in waste disposal at the Juncos Landfill, causing it to nearly close operations. The hurricane destroyed the landfill’s leachate collection system, creating a serious health and safety hazard for neighboring communities. USDA Rural Development awarded the landfill’s operators a $23.7 million Water & Waste Disaster Disposal Direct Loan and Grant, allowing the landfill to continue operations for up to 21 more years. The funds were used to repair the leachate, manage storm waters and reduce methane gas generation.

The Water and Waste program demonstrates strong successes in the fight against climate change. USDA Rural Development has the resources rural communities need to build a more resilient future.

Category/Topic: Rural