A Town on the Water Map: Lessons from Ivanhoe, NC

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2023-04-28

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Abstract

In July 2022, Sampson County was awarded $13.2 million from the State of North Carolina to connect 350 households in Ivanhoe, NC to county water. The grant comes after community organizing efforts for water access and moves Ivanhoe towards fulfilling the community’s 20-year desire of getting connected to county water. The grant money comes from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding for water infrastructure which is administered via the NC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ)’s Drinking Water Reserve program. The following report combines perspectives from state, county, and community levels surrounding the successful application by Sampson County on behalf of Ivanhoe. Information was gathered through background research on water infrastructure and review of meeting minutes, news coverage, and DEQ documentation. Interviews with community members, an engineer, and county and state officials were also conducted. Federal funds reach local water projects in North Carolina through multiple DEQ loan and grant programs. The American Rescue Plan Act resulted in a large influx of funding into DEQ’s Drinking Water Reserve and Wastewater Reserve with a non-earmarked $191.3 million dedicated to water and wastewater systems at-risk of becoming distressed. The Ivanhoe water project qualified for this grant funding. Sampson County’s water system serves approximately 6,033 customers and Ivanhoe, a predominantly Black, low-income rural community is not included in those numbers. Ivanhoe community members depend on private wells currently and complain of low water quality. Funding issues are the most notable reason why Ivanhoe has had to wait so long for connections. The Ivanhoe community organized to encourage Sampson County to apply for grant funding from the state in Spring 2022. Connections to municipal water will provide a regulated standard of water to Ivanhoe residents and draw further investment to the area, community members hope. The report aims to inform how DEQ loan and grant processes can be made more accessible to communities especially those that are considered at-risk according to DEQ metrics. The report offers: takeaways for other communities hoping to advocate for themselves to get their local governments to apply on their behalf for funding, takeaways for DEQ to improve their loan/grant application processes through increased community engagement, and ideas for how DEQ may be able to boost its outreach resources and increase water access to communities.

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Otero, Catherine (2023). A Town on the Water Map: Lessons from Ivanhoe, NC. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/27218.


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