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Infinite Earth Radio – weekly conversations with leaders building smarter, more sustainable, and equitable communities - Michael Hancox EPISODE 13
Access to Safe Drinking Water in Rural America [U.S. Water Crisis Part One]
00:00:00 00:25:01

Access to Safe Drinking Water in Rural America [U.S. Water Crisis Part One]


Water Infrastructure in Rural Communities


[01:39] Introduction of Hope Cupit and Andy Crocker.

[02:18] In light of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, how many Americans lack access to safe drinking water?

[03:16] Is it accurate that the number of people who don’t have access to drinking water doesn’t take into account those who may have access to below-standard drinking water?

[03:49] Is the lack of water infrastructure disproportionately located in other geographic ways, or are certain populations more likely to be impacted?

[05:45] How are investments for new developments justified when distressed communities have been trying for years to get water infrastructure?

[08:55] What are the health and economic implications for rural communities that don’t have access to clean water and wastewater facilities?

[10:28] What has the Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project been doing to address this problem of inequity in access to water infrastructure?

[12:26] Is South Carolina one of the states that you work in?

[12:49] How do you get infrastructure to communities that have been trying to get onto municipal water supplies?

[14:21] On a national level, what are some of the obstacles that get in the way of being able to get communities what they need?

[15:50] How are tribal communities enduring the lack of water infrastructure?

[18:02] How can people learn more and support the work that you’re doing at SERCAP?

[19:36] Hope and Andy share information about the larger network that SERCAP is part of.

[21:09] Does the larger RCAP network have its own website?

[21:34] Hope and Andy explain why this work is important to them.

[23:00] Andy and Hope share one change that would lead to smarter, more sustainable, and more equitable communities.

[23:25] Hope and Andy explain the action that listeners can take to help build a more equitable and sustainable future.

[23:55] Hope and Andy share what the world looks like 30 years from now.


Hope Cupit is the President and CEO of the Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project (SERCAP). She also is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and is a Professor at Virginia Western Community College where she teaches Financial Accounting. In 2007, Mrs. Cupit began her tenure at Southeast RCAP as the Controller, then was promoted to become the Vice President/Deputy CEO and was hired in 2009 as President and CEO for the organization. Mrs. Cupit comes from a background of community leadership and has been actively involved with community economic development efforts for over 25 years. She is devoted to assisting the less fortunate and maintaining the integrity of improving the infrastructure of small rural communities. She enjoys working with these small communities, learning first-hand about the challenges people face in everyday life and advocating on their behalf.

Andy Crocker is the Virginia State Manager for Regional Programs at SERCAP.


Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project, Inc.’s (SERCAP) mission is to improve the quality of life for low-income individuals by promoting affordable water and wastewater facilities, community development, environmental health, and economic self-sufficiency. As a member of the National Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP), SERCAP serves all of the rural citizens of seven southeastern states: Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. To date, SERCAP has brought clean water and wastewater facilities to more than 450,000 residents in our seven state network

In keeping with their focus on water and wastewater needs, a majority of their services are directed to rural individuals, families and small communities who are tackling the tough financing, infrastructure, and troubleshooting problems associated with getting and maintaining clean drinking water. But SERCAP also focuses efforts to serve those same folks on housing needs, economic development, community capacity building and other development issues facing rural communities.


“It is estimated that 1.6 million people in the United States do not have access to water, and that cost is 1 trillion over the next 20 years just to fix it, and the estimated cost in that industry—the capital investments by water industry—is 23 billion dollars per year below what should be spent to meet the water-quality needs in this country.”

“There might be only a certain portion of people within the community that really want the water service or wastewater service and are willing to pay for it, and others are not because hookup fees, perhaps, are prohibitive, whereas in a new development those costs are kind of built in to the building lots and selling of the homes and all that kind of thing.”

“Education is a really key component, obviously; and we work pretty closely with, for example, the Office of Drinking Water’s division of Capacity Development which helps us identify at-risk water systems and communities that need that assistance.”

“Mostly, we work closely with the USDA office to obtain grants—mostly grants because the community cannot sustain any loans—so that we can put in the infrastructure to get them connected to the public water system.”


Episode 014: Climate Change and Storm Water Utilities [U.S. Water Crisis Part Two] – In this episode, we speak with Matthew Naud, Environmental Coordinator for the The City Of Ann Arbor about how climate change is affecting storm-water systems and the innovative steps Ann Arbor is taking to meet the challenge.

Episode 015: A Holistic Approach to Drinking-Water Infrastructure [U.S. Water Crisis Part Three] – In this episode, we speak with Dr. Tamim Younos, Founder & President of the Green Water-Infrastructure Academy, about strategies for providing safe, sustainable drinking water.

Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project, Inc.

SERCAP’s A Day Without Indoor Plumbing Campaign

Find Your Local Legislator!

National Rural Community Assistance Partnership


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