Water Equity Clearinghouse

Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project (SERCAP)

Southeast US

Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project (SERCAP) is a nonprofit organization that helps upgrade water and wastewater systems in small, rural towns and communities. It was founded in the 1960s with funding from the Office of Economic Opportunity. SERCAP also provides training and technical assistance to rural residents for operation and maintenance of those systems, capacity building, and economic development in their communities. Many of the organization’s programs are run by volunteers, who also train community leaders and recruit additional local volunteers. With its central office is located in Roanoke, Virginia, SERCAP serves the states of Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. To date, SERCAP has brought clean water and wastewater facilities to more than 450,000 residents in the Southeast.

Efforts to Advance Water Equity

SERCAP brings desperately needed water and wastewater infrastructure to rural, low-income communities in the Southeast. The project is guided by the belief that providing infrastructure is one of the best ways to bring people out of poverty. Rural counties in the Southeastern US are some of the poorest areas in the country, with poverty levels reaching 30 percent. Across the region, low-income rural communities lack basic water infrastructure, from running water and indoor plumbing to wastewater treatment systems. While some of these areas have water utilities, they lack the funding required to increase access to infrastructure, and they struggle to improve services without raising their rates.

SERCAP offers a wide array of services, from directly constructing infrastructure, to providing financing and loan options, to offering technical training. These services are available to individuals—for example, assisting a family with digging a well or installing an indoor toilet—as well as to small, rural governments. SERCAP partners with existing utilities to strengthen and scale up services by training local residents to become water system operators and monitor water quality. By offering a menu of services and financing options, SERCAP is flexible enough to address a wide range of challenges. SERCAP’s work paves the way for economic development by giving residents the skills and expertise to work in the water sector. In the future, the organization hopes to work more directly on leveraging water system investment to create jobs for workers left unemployed by declining industries like coal mining.