The National Rural Water Association (NRWA), headquartered in Duncan, will receive two federal grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development, totaling nearly $7 million.

Both awards come from the Water and Waste Disposal Technical Assistance and Training grant program, which provides funding to qualified non-profits for projects and training to solve water and waste-related issues.

Vern Steel, NRWA Chief Operating Officer, said NRWA is excited to provide essential programs like this in America.

“NRWA is excited to continue providing essential programs like Technical Assistance and Training to our wastewater systems in America,” Steel said. “Many of these systems are in our smallest and most disadvantaged communities, which have limited access to the training and expertise that we facilitate between communities across the country.”

The first award, totaling more than $4.5 million, of which a portion of will support efforts in Payne County to establish a set of highly skilled water workers to ensure water infrastructure is strong, modern, safe and sustainable for the communities. The program will also help create jobs in the area, advance technological innovation at small water and wastewater systems and create economic development opportunities.

Shannan Walton, NRWA Apprenticeship Program Manager, said the program helps provide a framework for those receiving funding.

“The NRWA Apprenticeship Program provides the rural water and wastewater systems a framework to create training and development strategies, succession planning, and learning opportunities,” Walton said. “The federal funds that support these apprenticeship efforts is an investment in the quality of life in rural America that improves our water and wastewater infrastructure by attracting, training, and retaining the next generation of water and wastewater utility professionals that are essential to these communities.”

The second award, totaling more than $2.6 million, of which a portion of will support projects in Stephens County to develop rural communities and grow local economies as well as enhance the sustainability of utility system governance, management and operations through project development and the delivery of the Sustainable Utility Management program and hands-on technical assistance.

Congressman Tom Cole, whose district includes Stephens county, on Friday, said the funds will pave the way for job creation and other economic opportunities.

“I am delighted that the Fourth District’s own National Rural Water Association will receive substantial funding from the USDA to support water infrastructure improvements and strengthen the workforce in two key areas of our state,” Cole said. “Along with paving the way for the creation of jobs and increasing economic opportunities statewide, the investment in rural Oklahoma will help maintain safe water and modern and sustainable infrastructure for the future.”

Congressman Frank Lucas, whose district includes Payne County, said he is thankful for the work on the funding. 

“Investments to strengthen Oklahoma’s workforce and improve water infrastructure are important to communities across our great state,” Lucas said. “I’m thankful for the work done by the National Rural Water Association and USDA’s Office of Rural Development. These investments will create jobs, improve the public health and safety of our rural communities, and lay the groundwork for innovative water systems across Oklahoma.”

Matt Holes, NRWA Chief Executive Officer, said funding of this nature is imperative to continue work in the right direction. 

“The National Rural Water Association is committed to supporting rural America and Rural Water,” Holmes said. “Receiving federal funding is imperative to continue the essential work water and wastewater professionals provide each and every day, and we look forward to promoting and supporting them any way we can.”

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