United States Senator Richard Durbin (D-Illinois) and U.S. Representative Jo Ann Emerson (R-Missouri) have received the 2005 Ground Water Protector Award by the National Ground Water Association (NGWA).

The Ground Water Protector Award recognizes people in government, industry and the private sector for their public service efforts in conjunction with ground water conservation, protection and use.

Both Durbin and Emerson are key supporters of funding for a federal household water well system financing program.

“For many low-income families who depend on a household water well, this financing program truly will be a lifeline. We are very grateful to Sen. Durbin and Rep. Emerson for support and compassion toward those individuals,” says John Christiansen, chair of the National Ground Water Association's Government Affairs Committee.

“Nearly half our nation's population depends on ground water in all or part,” Christiansen notes. “That's why it is vital to provide well construction and repair funds to help those who care barely make ends meet.”

Last year, President Bush signed a bill that provides $1 million for loans to low- to moderate-income persons for the installation or improvement of household water wells.

The money will be disbursed to eligible organizations that, in turn, will provide low-interest loans for terms of up to 20 years.

Some 3.6 million low- to moderate-income households across the country use outmoded water wells, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Christiansen says that nearly half the U.S. population depends on ground water for its drinking water supply. Senator Durbin, Illinois' senior senator, supported the well financing program on the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee. Representative Emerson, who represents the 28 counties of southern Missouri's agriculturally diverse Eighth District, supported the well financing program on the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee.