Arkansan Tells of Life with Little Water

WASHINGTON — Life is “strenuous and stressful” when you don’t have running water, Benton County resident Mike Frazee told lawmakers on Capitol Hill on Thursday. He described the challenges people face when they don’t have a well and their homes aren’t connected to municipal waterlines.

Members of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water, and Wildlife were attentive as the 41-year-old construction worker spoke.

“I live in rural Northwest Arkansas, an area of great natural beauty, but where access to basic services like drinking water can be extremely difficult,” he said. “My dad, who is a disabled vet, spent much of his life hauling water to our home. My mother was constantly stressed out about how much water we had.”

Two percent of all American residences — nearly 2.7 million housing units — have incomplete plumbing, according to U.S. Census Bureau 2011-15 American Community Survey 5-year estimates.

They lack hot and cold running water or flush toilets or a bathtub or shower — or a combination of the above.

The figure is higher in Arkansas: 3.6 percent.

Benton County, which is increasingly urban, actually fares better than the national average — only 1.5 percent of its households lack complete plumbing.

But in remote, rural areas and places with rugged terrain, the figures are higher.

“In my part of the world, people drive every day, thousands of miles a year, to haul water from a coin-operated water machine to their homes, and if their water station is broke or there’s bad weather conditions, you might have to go several days without water,” Frazee said.

Frazee and his parents have homes off of Posy Mountain Road, about a mile from Beaver Lake and less than 10 miles from Rogers.

Although there’s a water treatment facility nearby, waterlines were never extended to his land, he said.

After hauling water for years, Frazee’s mother decided to ask U.S. Sen. John Boozman’s office for help. He put her in touch with the Water Systems Council, the water wells industry’s trade association.

The organization’s new charitable group, Water Well Trust, agreed to help.

In 2012, it drilled wells for the Frazees and five other Arkansas families, loaning them up to $11,000 each to cover the costs.

Participants are typically charged 1 percent interest and are given up to 20 years to pay off the debt.

In an interview, Margaret Martens, the trade association’s executive director, said Arkansas was the group’s pilot project.

Since then, 24 additional wells have been completed in Northwest Arkansas.

And more wells are on the way.

Twenty-one Arkansas families are on the waiting list and, due to the program’s success, the Water Well Trust is now expanding into South Carolina, Georgia, Pennsylvania, New York and Missouri, she said.

Those who get assistance are “low-income Americans,” Martens said, and the benefits are long-lasting.

“It’s life-changing. I tell you, we have no idea what these folks go through living without safe water in their homes,” she said.

Frazee told the lawmakers he’s grateful for the help.

“Wells and well systems are a godsend to rural communities like mine,” he said.

Original post: NW News on 07/22/2017 –

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