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Office of the Vice President

For Immediate Release July 12, 1999

           Effort Will Also Boost Economies of Poor Rural Areas

Washington, DC -- Vice President Al Gore today awarded nearly $200 million in loans and grants for over 100 safe drinking water projects in 40 states.

The funds bolster the Administration's New Markets initiative, designed to help low-income communities share in the unprecedented prosperity most parts of the country are currently enjoying.

"These grants are another example of how we can continue to grow our economy without endangering our environment. The need for clean water is not only a critical public health issue, it is also a key factor in promoting rural economic development," the Vice President said. "Without safe, reliable drinking water, no community can attract the new businesses needed to provide America's families with good-paying jobs."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture awards target rural communities plagued by some of the nation's worst water quality and dependability problems. Children and the elderly are at particular risk from illnesses caused by unclean drinking water. The Administration's Water 2000 Initiative, launched in August 1994, has already invested in projects to improve drinking water for more than 2.8 million Americans.

The loans and grants announced today include:

     $24 million for 12 projects serving low-income, rural towns in

     $13.7 million for seven projects in seven Empowerment Zones or
     Enterprise Communities;

     $12.3 million for impoverished colonias in four Southwest states;

     $7.2 million for five projects in impoverished Mississippi Delta

     President Clinton also announced $16 million for Water 2000

projects on American Indian tribal lands and Alaska Native villages in 8 states, including two projects on the Pine Ridge Reservation last week.

Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman said, "USDA's financial assistance will leverage more than $75 million from local water districts, county governments, state agencies, and other federal sources." Since 1994, USDA has invested nearly $2 billion in Water 2000 projects in more than 1,600 rural communities nationwide.

At least 2 million rural Americans live with critical drinking water quality and availability problems, including an estimated 740,000 people who have no running water in their homes. An estimated 5 million additional rural residents are affected by less critical, but still significant, water-related difficulties. These include undersized or poorly protected water sources, a lack of adequate storage facilities, and antiquated distribution systems.