The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Wednesday announced that over $278 million in funding to improve access to safe and reliable drinking water and wastewater services has been granted to Indian Country.
The announcement was made at an event at the Lummi Nation in Bellingham, Washington by (EPA) Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox.
“For too long, Tribes have struggled without access to basic water services—impacting their health and economic well-being. Today’s funding announcement is a generational investment that moves us closer to achieving a future where all Tribes have access to safe drinking water and wastewater services,” Fox said.
The water funds were made possible through the bipartisan infrastructure law. Fox told Native News Online in an interview that President Biden made a commitment to maintain a nation to nation relationship with tribes.
“He’s made a commitment of this administration to focus on strengthening the nation to nation relationship with tribes. And that’s happened in several ways, including receiving the historic amount of dedicated funding for tribal water for American Indians and Alaska Natives,” Fox said.
The funding will help Tribes and Alaska Native Villages make significant investments in water infrastructure improvements to advance public health protections by improving compliance with existing water regulations, identifying, and replacing lead service lines, and addressing harmful emerging contaminants in drinking water and wastewater, such as per- and polyfluorinated substances (PFAS).
The funding will be administered through the following programs:
$64 million in FY 2023 Clean Water Indian Set-Aside (CWISA) through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and annual appropriation funds;
$130.3 million in FY 2023 Drinking Water Infrastructure Grants through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and annual appropriation funds;
$38.6 million in combined FY 2022 and FY 2023 Emerging Contaminants in Small or Disadvantaged Communities (EC-SDC) Tribal Grant Program through Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funds;
$5.6 million in combined FY 2022 and FY 2023 Small, Underserved, and Disadvantaged Communities (SUDC) Tribal Grant Program through annual appropriation funds, and
$39.6 million in FY 2023 Alaska Rural and Native Villages (ANV) Grant Program through annual appropriation funds.
The EPA works in collaboration with Indian Health Service (IHS) in water management in Indian Country.
Fox said the EPA is focused on providing technical assistance to tribal communities to build their technical, financial, and managerial capacity.
“So we’re also investing in a range of technical assistance to support tribal communities to not only access these funds, but also to be able to access state revolving loan fund dollars and other investment vehicles as well,” Fox said.
Earlier this year, EPA released a survey of drinking water needs in Indian Country. The results indicate that in excess of $4 billion is needed over the course of the next 20 years to bring adequate drinking water to Indian Country.
“We know that today’s announcement has an important step. But our work won’t stop there. We are going to continue to push for additional funding,” Fox said.
About the Author: “Levi \”Calm Before the Storm\” Rickert (Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation) is the founder, publisher and editor of Native News Online. Rickert was awarded Best Column 2021 Native Media Award for the print\/online category by the Native American Journalists Association. He serves on the advisory board of the Multicultural Media Correspondents Association. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.”