USDA rural development and application process

Posted by on May 22, 2012 in Wastewater Management | No Comments

In order to successfully promote projects and secure funding for wastewater projects with the USDA, it’s important to understand the history and purpose of the USDA Rural Development Administration.

Authority for the USDA was originally created in 1937, and the Water Facilities Act created the Water and Waste Program, which is administered by the USDA.  In 1961, the Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act opened the water program to the general and rural populations in all states.

The Water and Waste Program, Rural Utility Service (RUS) includes the following components:

  • Water and Waste Disposal Loans
  • Water and Waste Disposal Grants
  • Technical Assistance and Training Grants
  • Solid Waste Management Grants
  • Emergency Community Water Assistance Grants
  • Rural Water Circuit Rider Technical Assistance

Rural development loans and grants are available for projects to serve communities in our state that qualify, based on population and income level.

As one would expect, the USDA doesn’t just fund projects without an appropriate amount of due diligence and engineering study.

They require that the applicant be a municipality or non-profit organization.

The application process involves an engineering study that clearly states the problem and identifies the best alternative for solving the problem.

Quite often, the solution for failing on-site systems is to provide a decentralized/community wastewater treatment system to benefit the maximum number of residents with the project.

In addition to the engineering study, the federal government requires that an environmental study be performed to consider the environmental impacts of the proposed project.

This might include the potential for impact to existing wetlands, endangered species and cultural resources on the site.  Upon successful completion of the application, engineering report and environmental study, the USDA may allocate funding for the project.


This last year, due to the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, the USDA in Alabama had $37M available, which is much larger than their typical annual budget for funding projects.  In the fiscal year for 2011, the ARRA funds were not expected to be carried over.  However, the USDA was projected to have a larger than average annual budget, due to unused funds from the previous year.

If you are aware of rural areas where significant numbers of existing septic systems have begun to fail and are creating unhealthy conditions, you may want to contact the local municipality or the USDA to investigate the possibility for a rural development project.

The most important thing in getting these types of projects underway is leadership and persistence by local citizens to get them started.

Sain Associates, Inc., is headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama, with offices in Cullman, Alabama, Pulaski, Tennessee and Mandeville, Louisiana. Sain is a site engineering, traffic/transportation engineering and planning and land surveying firm with experience in more than thirty states.

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