Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Review - HR 7241 Introduced – Rural Water Systems Emergency Response

Earlier this month, Rep Stauber (R,MN) introduced HR 7241, the Rural Water System Disaster Preparedness and Assistance Act. The bill would require the USDA to establish a new grant program to assist associations “that operate rural water or wastewater systems in preparing for and responding to natural or man-made disasters”. The bill provides authorization for $20 million per year through 2028 to support the grant program.

Moving Forward

While Stauber is not a member of the House Agriculture Committee to which this bill was assigned for consideration, one of his two cosponsors {Rep Finstad (R,MN)} is a member. This means that there may be sufficient influence to see this bill considered in Committee. Other than the funding, I see nothing in this bill that would engender any organized opposition. I suspect that there will probably be bipartisan support for the program, but at this point it is unclear if that support would be sufficient to overcome the general lack of will to add new spending programs in the 118th Congress.


While I understand that the new grant program is supposed to provide support for “preparing for and responding to natural or man-made [emphasis added] disasters”, there is nothing in the bill that would specifically encourage or allow grant funds to be used for cybersecurity planning or response. While there has been a great deal of talk in recent years about water system cybersecurity, it has been generally recognized that most small water systems lack the personnel or financial resources to adequately address water control system cybersecurity issues. Since the agricultural sector water systems are almost always by definition small water systems, I do not understand why cybersecurity planning and response are not specifically called out in the bill as an allowable use of grant funds.

I would like to see a new clause (xii) added to §1926(a)(27)(C):

“(xii) to facilitate cybersecurity assessments, vulnerability mitigation and incident response planning.


For more details about the provisions of the bill and the allowable uses of the grant funds, see my article at CFSN Detailed Analysis - https://patrickcoyle.substack.com/p/hr-7241-introduced - subscription required.

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