Friday, February 03, 2006

Is fire protection relevant?

Is fire protection part of the Section 1926(b) analysis? Rural water districts argue that water needs for fire protection should not be included in the "made service available" analysis because Section 1926(b) "was not enacted for the purpose of fire protection." But federal regulations require rural water districts to "have sufficient capacity to provide reasonable fire protection to the extent practicable." 7 C.F.R. section 1780.57(d). Furthermore, federal regulations and USDA loan documents require rural water districts to comply with state and local laws and regulations, particularly regarding engineering requirements for water service facilities. Many states require water service systems to be built to certain requirements so that fire protection needs can be met. Finally, the Rural Utilities Service regularly provides funding for water systems that provide water for fire protection. In fact, in its 2004 annual report, the Rural Utilities Service noted that its funding for public body projects (loans made to public agencies like water districts) were substantially impacted by "the increased demand for fire protection in public body water systems." U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Rural Development, Water and Environmental Programs: Annual Activity Report 5 (FY 2004).