Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project
The Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project (SERCAP) was established through funding from the U.S. Government’s Office of Economic Opportunity in the 1960s. The Project helps low-income rural communities in the mid-Atlantic and the Southeastern U.S. obtain water and wastewater infrastructure for running water, indoor plumbing, and wastewater treatment. Water utilities in these rural areas often lack funding to provide such infrastructure. Households that are not supplied with drinking water tend to rely on wells and septic tanks, which can get contaminated by pollution from agricultural activity and the lack of suitable wastewater treatment. SERCAP assists both individuals and municipalities, and its services include installing infrastructure, providing financing and loans, and offering technical support. In addition to providing services related to water, SERCAP also provides support on housing issues.
SERCAP seeks to provide rural low-income communities with safe drinking water, wastewater disposal, and structurally sound housing. It provides services on both an individual and community level, ranging from directly constructing infrastructure to providing financial support to offering technical training. Although the organization started out solely dedicated to addressing rural communities’ water and wastewater needs, it has expanded its services to include housing issues.
Through SERCAP, communities and customers can apply for technical or financial aid to support water and wastewater, housing, and community development assistance. SERCAP professionals provide technical assistance to carry out projects ranging from installing indoor plumbing to assessing the structural integrity of homes. For individual households, SERCAP’s Loan Fund can provide up to $15,000 for a septic system, and up to $11,000 for a new well. In addition, SERCAP’s Home Improvement Loans can provide up to $15,000 to fund projects such as roof and foundation repairs. Community Development Loans are also available for non-profit organizations, local governments, and other community entities to develop large-scale community projects such as a new wastewater treatment facility or the repair of water storage tanks. Communities can borrow loans up to $250,000 at interest rates ranging from 3 - 7%.
SERCAP additionally provides training and technical assistance to community leaders to ensure the proper maintenance and operation of water and wastewater systems. SERCAP partners with local utilities to train residents in water system operation and monitoring of water quality. The organization also has Housing Counselors who provide services relating to budget, credit, rental, pre- and post-Purchase, and foreclosure prevention.
Rural counties in the Southeast face high poverty levels, with some areas experiencing poverty levels of 30 percent.1 Faced with these difficulties, many communities within the region lack basic water and wastewater infrastructure. Furthermore, the existing water utilities in this region often lack the funding to expand or improve upon their services. By providing these communities with the support necessary to build and expand this infrastructure, SERCAP addresses the disparities in water and wastewater access among poorer regions across the US. Over the years, SERCAP has supported 450,000 people in Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida through helping communities in these states obtain clean water and wastewater treatment.
Furthermore, in order to better provide water and wastewater infrastructure to residents, community members must be equipped with safe and affordable housing. SERCAP works to provide affordable and structurally sound housing for community members in this region. Through its work, SERCAP helps to enhance the resilience of low-income communities that lack the resources to provide affordable housing for all.
Not only does SERCAP work to implement these shifts in infrastructure, but it also provides training to community members in order to ensure the maintenance of these systems. Providing the tools and skills they need to operate their infrastructure, can help empower communities through autonomy, which can lead to the expansion of economic opportunities.
- Funding program
1. U.S. Water Alliance. “Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project.” http://uswateralliance.org/organization/southeast-rural-community-assistance-project-sercap