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USDA and Federal Partners Renew Commitment to Improve Access to Safe Drinking Water and Basic Sanitation in Indian Country

WASHINGTON, April 9, 2013--Agriculture Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager announced today that U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Indian Health Service (IHS) and the Department of Interior (DOI), to continue to work together to reduce by 50 percent the number of tribal homes lacking access to safe water and basic sanitation by 2015. The announcement was made during the 2013 Tribal Utility Summit in Nashville, Tenn. The United South & Eastern Tribes, EPA, IHS, and USDA are co-hosting a workshop titled "The Sustainable Management of Rural and Small Water/Wastewater Systems" during the summit.

"Access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation are vital to maintaining public health. It is a basic human need," said Tonsager. "However, approximately 12 percent of all American Indian and Alaska Native homes do not have safe water or sanitation facilities. All of the parties to this MOU share a common goal of assisting tribes in improving quality of life by providing modern, reliable and affordable water and waste infrastructure through sustainable practices. We will continue to work together to meet that goal."

Today's MOU announcement renews efforts by federal agencies to address the lack of access to safe drinking water and adequate wastewater service in Indian country, fulfilling commitments the United States made in support of the United Nations Millennium Development Goal on access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2000.

The MOU replaces two previous MOUs that were designed to improve coordination among federal agencies that provide financial and/or technical assistance related to water infrastructure and increase access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation throughout Indian country and Alaskan Native communities.

The MOU will remain in effect for the next eight years and builds upon the success of efforts to date. "USDA is proud of its investments in American Indian and Alaskan Native communities. Through sustainable infrastructure we are helping to lay the foundation upon which community and economic development is possible for years to come," Tonsager said.

Since 2009, the federal government has provided over $900 million in funding to support drinking water, waste water and solid waste infrastructure planning and construction in Indian country. Meanwhile USDA Rural Development has invested over $1.7 billion dollars directly benefitting American Indians and Alaska Natives since 2009. Of those investments $182 million helped improve the water and sanitation infrastructure of Tribes in the continental United States. Over that same period of time Rural Development invested $160 million to help Alaska Native Villages provide safe and sanitary drinking water in some of the most remote and challenging climates in the country.

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