Tester, Daines introduce bipartisan bill to improve rural water infrastructure

Submitted by

Dave Kuntz

U.S. Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines today reintroduced their bipartisan bill to invest in critical Montana rural water infrastructure projects.

Tester and Daines’ new legislation—the Authorized Rural Water Projects Completion Act—will invest $80 million annually for the next 20 years to construct and upgrade drinking water infrastructure in Montana and across the country.  The funding will not come from taxpayers, but rather from the Bureau of Land Management’s Reclamation Fund that uses receipts from onshore oil and gas development to fund infrastructure projects.

“Reliable access to clean water is critical to every Montana family,” Tester said.  “This bipartisan bill will invest in essential infrastructure, provide a boost to rural communities, and create good paying jobs.”

“Water is a basic need for Montana families, farmers and ranchers,” Daines stated. “We need to ensure that all Montanans have access to a reliable water supply, especially for our rural communities that are too often overlooked.”

Montana has two rural water systems that would have immediate access to these funds: the Fort Peck-Dry Prairie Rural Water System in northeast Montana and Rocky Boy’s-North Central Montana Rural Water System, which combined serve nearly 35,000 Montanans.  Tester and Daines’ bill will directly address the current water shortage on the Rocky Boy’s Reservation by providing funding for a water storage tank.

Tester and Daines are also sponsoring legislation to authorize the Dry-Redwater Regional Water Project in eastern Montana and the Mussellshell-Judith Rural Water Project in central Montana.  Once authorized, both of these rural water projects would be eligible to receive funds under the Senators’ Authorized Rural Water Projects Completion Act.

Tester and Daines’ bill additionally provides $35 million annually for 20 years to construct tribal water projects, including those in Montana that have been or still need to be enacted by Congress.

Since 1980, 11 rural water projects have been designated across the western United States.  Today, six of the 11 rural water infrastructure projects are still under construction due to inconsistent funding from Congress.