Co-leading her first subcommittee hearing this week on water infrastructure projects, Wyoming’s U.S. Senator Cynthia Lummis touched on the importance of flexibility regarding water infrastructure regulations for small communities like those across Wyoming.
Speaking in a joint hearing of the Environment and Public Works Committee and the Fisheries, Water and Wildlife Subcommittee, Lummis said most of the nation’s drinking water and wastewater utilities are small. She said over 90 percent of the country’s roughly 50,000 community water systems serve populations of less than 10,000 people. And roughly 80 percent of America’s 17,000 wastewater utilities serve populations fewer than 10,000 people.
Lummis said rural and small communities like many in Wyoming have greater difficulty affording public wastewater service due to low population density and lack of economies of scale. She said rural communities also have lower average median household incomes and often have higher rates of poverty, which compound the challenge.
Lummis said rural water and wastewater services have a more difficult time than larger communities in complying with Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act regulations and permits. Unlike larger communities that often have teams of experts, smaller communities face the regulations and complex systems often with only one operator doing multiple jobs.
Senator Lummis cited communications between her office and Mark Pepper, the executive director of the Wyoming Association of Rural Water Systems, regarding the work he and his team have been doing to make sure water continued to flow to Wyoming residents during recent snow and ice storms. She showed photos of a water tank in the Casper area that suffered a power failure due to extreme ice and winter weather.