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Joint efforts by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced in April aim to improve wastewater infrastructure and access to clean drinking water along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The area has a long history of problems associated with access to fresh water, as well as with lack of reliable water supply and of wastewater treatment systems. In fact, in the most deprived parts of the region, none of these services are available, resulting in serious health consequences for local communities and a negative impact on the environment, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack commented. Despite attempts made by state and federal agencies to improve the economic situation and deal with persistent poverty, results will not be achieved unless the water and wastewater infrastructure is dramatically improved, he added.
The two federal agencies plan to conduct an initial assessment of the needs of the region regarding water and wastewater infrastructure, identifying water systems in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas that are in need of the most urgent repair and upgrade. Up to $500,000 through Rural Development's Technical Assistance and Training Grant will be awarded to a private non-profit organization to carry out the analysis, due late 2014. Once the assessment has been completed the EPA and the USDA will prioritize works, depending on how urgent each community's needs are.