Tasked with upgrading its water system, the Village of Oconto turned to the CDBG program for assistance.

As its water system displayed worsening symptoms of age and deterioration, villagers of Oconto, Nebraska (population 157) knew their community was facing a big challenge—one that would require more financial resources than the local budget, alone, could muster.

“Due to the advanced age of our water system, we were having multiple failures of our water mains, as well as pressure drops,” said Dan Eggleston, Chair of the Oconto Village Board. “Of course, any time there is a breach in the system there are water quality problems, and correcting those problems requires money.”

Diagnostics ordered by Oconto’s Wastewater Advisory Committee revealed a long list of problems. Due to leaks throughout the distribution system, the village was hemorrhaging water. The old meters were beyond their useful life, and needed to be replaced. The local water tower lacked several safety upgrades, and would need new exterior and interior coating.

And villagers had known about a second problem all along: with only a single well and no redundant water supply, there was always the risk that a mechanical issue—or perhaps a natural disaster, like the tornado that had struck Oconto on Halloween in 2000—could leave residents without water for days.

In 2015, after searching for funding for its water improvement needs, Oconto obtained assistance in the form of an $899,000 USDA Rural Development dollars and a CDBG program grant of $250,000. Soon thereafter, the repairs and upgrades began. By 2017, Oconto had a functional, up-to-date water system, including the backup well that the village had needed for decades.

Today, Oconto’s water quality and efficiency have dramatically improved, and villagers live with the peace of mind of having a safe, reliable water supply that will serve Oconto for generations to come.

“This project has stabilized our quality of water and provided durability and longevity to our water system,” Eggleston said. “Not having numerous water maintenance projects also helps our community fiscally. This simply would not have happened if it were not for CDBG grant funds. The Village of Oconto is very grateful.”