On the Frontlines of Climate Change: Building a More Resilient Rural America

ByRichard C. Sloan

Apr 21, 2022

Posted by USDA Rural Development Staff in Rural

April 21, 2022

Rural Americans are on the front lines of the impacts of climate change and increasingly severe weather that threaten their health, safety and livelihoods. That’s why USDA Rural Development stands ready to offer resources to help fight the climate crisis, rebuild communities that have been impacted by disaster, and equip them with the tools to become more resilient than ever.

This week, as we celebrate Earth Day, we are proud to highlight some of the many USDA programs that enable people in rural America to stay resilient and sustain their communities in the face of natural disasters and severe weather.

Investing in Preparedness and Resilience: A Wisconsin Community Mitigates Future Floods

The Village of Ontario has experienced recurrent flooding which has caused significant damage to its infrastructure. In 2021, USDA Rural Development invested $900,000 through the Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program to help community leaders develop a plan to mitigate future flooding and create a more sustainable community.

The project helped the village build infrastructure in areas more resilient to natural disasters. The funds were used to construct water and sewer lines for new commercial and residential areas located outside the floodplain for businesses, single family homes and apartments. Investments like this ensure that the health, safety and livelihoods of people in rural areas are protected for generations to come.

Building back better and stronger: Hurricane-affected communities in Puerto Rico are rebuilding for a more resilient future

Safe and reliable wastewater treatment infrastructure is an essential resource for every community, especially in times of natural disaster. In 2017, hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated many communities in Puerto Rico. As they continue to rebuild, debris from demolished and damaged properties has caused an unprecedented amount of waste disposal in community landfills. The USDA has invested $17.3 million in the Disaster Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program make improvements to the landfill.

Likewise, the aftermath of Hurricane Maria caused a huge increase in waste disposal at the Juncos landfill, causing it to nearly shut down its operations. The hurricane destroyed the landfill’s leachate collection system, creating a serious health and safety hazard to nearby communities. USDA Rural Development awarded landfill operators $23.7 million Direct Loan and Grant for Disaster Water and Waste Disposal, allowing the landfill to continue operating for up to 21 more years. The funds were used to repair leachate, manage stormwater and reduce methane production.

The Water and Waste program has shown solid successes in the fight against climate change. USDA Rural Development has the resources rural communities need to build a more resilient future.

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