President George W. Bush has signed a bill providing $1 million for loans to low- to moderate-income persons for the installation or improvement of household water wells.
The National Ground Water Association, which supported the federal assistance, hailed the $1 million appropriation as an important step toward meeting an urgent national need. Some 3.6 million low- to moderate-income households across the country use outmoded water wells, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
"For too many Americans, even the most basic of needs - water - can be a challenge because of the cost of drilling or improving a well. Now, more people will have an affordable option," said Dick Burke, former chair of the NGWA Government Affairs Committee, which lobbied for the appropriation and authorizing legislation.
From the $1 million, grants will be awarded to nonprofit entities, which in turn will provide loans to eligible persons for constructing, refurbishing or servicing household water well systems. The loans would have a maximum interest rate of 1 percent with a term of up to 20 years.
NGWA currently funds the nonprofit Foundation for Affordable Drinking Water. It currently offers such loans in Ohio and Iowa, and is expected to expand into other states in the near future. Under the current program offered by the Foundation, households must:
* Have a combined household income of no more than $43,200 in Ohio (based on a family of four) and $42,100 in Iowa for the most recent 12-month period.
* Be located in a city, town or unincorporated area with a population of less than 10,000.
Information on the Foundation and its low-interest loan program can be found on the Web at www.wellowner.org  and clicking on "financing."
Nearly half the U.S. population depends on ground water as its source of water for drinking and household use. Every day, 76.4 billion gallons of ground water are pumped in the United States.