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December 14, 2010

Report: federal funds helped 47 communities upgrade drinking water systems

MADISON -- Good news was on tap: 97 percent of the 11,422 public water systems met all health-based standards for the water they served.

"We're very pleased that Wisconsin utilities, DNR staff, and our other partners continue to do an exceptional job of providing safe drinking water for Wisconsin," says Jill Jonas, who leads the Department of Natural Resources drinking water and groundwater program.

Safe Water on Tap: The Annual Drinking Water Report, highlighted other good news for Wisconsin citizens and businesses who rely on public water suppliers for their drinking water and the water they need to run their manufacturing, food processing, agricultural and other operations:

Federal stimulus money enabled Wisconsin to provide $83.5 million in financial help to communities to upgrade their drinking water supply systems, more than doubling the number of communities typically assisted in a year, according to a recently released report on public water supplies' performance.

"We're pleased we were able to help so many communities continue to provide safe drinking water for citizens at an affordable price," Jonas said. "This was a unique opportunity, and many people worked hard to make the most of it.

DNR used funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, along with Safe Drinking Water Act State Revolving Funds, to provide more than $46 million in low-interest loans and $37 million in grants. Recipients included communities of all sizes, from Cumberland, to Fond du Lac, to Hurley, Richland Center, Stoughton and Stevens Point, according to Mary Rose Teves, director of the DNR Bureau of Community Financial Assistance, which administers the grants and loans.

The stimulus funding enabled communities to receive a grant to cover as much as half of their project cost.

Low-interest loans can give communities savings equal 20 to 30 percent compared to a market rate loan, depending on market rates, Teves says. Since the state program began in 1998, 147 projects have received more than $366 million in loans and grants to help improve their drinking water supplies.

The report also highlighted challenges to public water systems and the state program charged with carrying out federal Safe Drinking Water Act requirements.

To be eligible for federal Save Drinking Water funds, DNR analyzes results from water system sampling, provides technical help to owners and operators, reviews construction plans for water systems, enforces significant violations when necessary, and trains water system operators.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Lee Boushon (608) 266-0857

Last Revised: Tuesday, December 14, 2010

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