COLUMBIA, S.C. – Governor Henry McMaster was joined today by the South Carolina Rural Infrastructure Authority (RIA), Municipal Association of South Carolina, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, and members of the General Assembly to make a major rural infrastructure proposal that would provide $500 million in American Rescue Plan (ARPA) funds to revitalize South Carolina's water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure. The proposal would modernize rural water systems statewide, providing safe drinking water and the infrastructure needed for economic development in our rural communities.
"In rural South Carolina – water and sewer are key to life. The right water and sewer systems in a county can transform a tax base, creating jobs, good schools, and a vibrant community," said Governor Henry McMaster. "With this investment of $500 million into rural water, sewer, and stormwater infrastructure, we can ensure that South Carolina will have the workforce, the infrastructure, and the quality of life necessary to compete nationally and globally for jobs and investment – for generations to come."
Under the proposal, the RIA will administer the $500 million in funding based on the following priorities:
Economic Development: To increase economic development in our rural counties funding will be centered around tier III and tier IV counties. These counties are identified by the S.C. Department of Revenue based on the county's unemployment rate and per capita income. The lower the county's score, the higher the tier. With water and sewer capacity being critical to where a company decides to locate, many of these counties that lack modernized systems have little opportunity to attract new jobs and investment.
Public Health: To ensure safe drinking water, monies will be prioritized for upgrading water and wastewater systems that are not in compliance with state regulations. Most of these water systems are in rural communities that do not possess the resources or tax base to upgrade or replace their water systems.
Regionalization: Similar to consolidating school districts, funds will be spent to incentivize large municipal water and sewer systems to connect to smaller systems. This consolidation will provide cheaper, more efficient service.
"To continue to provide the critical water services that people need, our infrastructure needs to be modernized and upgraded to meet today's standards," said RIA Executive Director Bonnie Ammons. "Today's announcement stands to be transformational in all corners of our state. Such investments will help to strengthen communities and put them in a position to succeed."
The RIA was created in 2012 to assist communities with financing for qualified infrastructure projects for water, wastewater, and stormwater systems.
"A lot of times we forget about water and waster water because it is underground but it is as important to economic development as roads and workforce," said S.C. Municipal Association Executive Director Todd Glover. "Access to these funds will be transformative to cities and towns across our state"
Guidance from the U.S. Department of Treasury permits states to use ARPA funds for a broad range of necessary investments in projects that improve access to clean drinking water, improve wastewater and stormwater infrastructure systems.