RCAP Survey Shows Impact of COVID-19 on Rural and Tribal Water and Wastewater Systems

June 1, 2020 By RCAP

More than 31 percent of systems surveyed who were able to estimate their financial outlook indicated they would not be able to continue to cover all costs for more than six months under these current conditions.

More than 43 percent of systems surveyed said they rely on one full-time operator or less to operate their system (many rely on part-time staff, operators or volunteers), and many respondents indicated a concern over the health of their operators in the maintenance of the system.


Based on the responses received, RCAP was able to estimate revenue loss across the country for small water systems (serving populations of 10,000 residents or fewer) of between $3.6 to $5.58 billion. RCAP was able to estimate for systems providing water or both water and wastewater using data for 33 states and Puerto Rico. This impact would be much greater if extrapolated nationally and with systems providing wastewater alone.

“This pandemic has recognized the our Utility Workers are ESSENTIAL EMPLOYEES and VALUABLE to the community. They were taken for granted before this!!”

“Our local gas station is providing lunches for kids at no charge. They are doing this once each week for any family with children. There are other meal outreach programs from the schools to make sure the kids are being fed.”

“Schools are still handing out meals for kids. The Boys & Girls Club is handing out activity packs to kids to keep them busy. There is a Saturday night cruise on Main Street to get a little social activity going. Donations for local charities are being done during the cruise night and each week a different charity is being helped.”

Positive points during times of hardship


To download the topline fact sheet, please click below.

covid survey one pager

One-pagers by state

RCAP received responses from 49 states and Puerto Rico. The one-pagers to the right can be shared with policymakers in each state to advocate for the continued need of future COVID-19 response funding for small water and wastewater systems. More states will continue to be added.