Entries for the 'RWAs' Category

27

The Missouri DNR, with assistance from the Missouri Rural Water Association, has developed a seven-minute video to help community water systems prepare and deliver their consumer confidence reports using electronic delivery.

While this video is specific to Missouri systems, it highlights an innovative and practical approach to primacy agency-facilitated electronic CCR delivery. Be sure to check with your primacy agency for options and requirements that may apply to you.

22

Since SmallWaterSupply.org launched in 2010 we have seen more and more training offered via free and for-a-fee webinars. These topical training events generally last an hour or two and are a very efficient way to deliver information. 

This week the National Rural Water Association, in conjunction with their Water University online training program, announced Water Pro to Go. Water Pro is the association's annual technical conference for education in operations, management, boardsmanship and governance. This new "to Go" option will offer conference attendees a way to view concurrent session materials. 

Perhaps more significantly, Water Pro to Go will allow those who cannot travel to the event to experience much of a full conference for free from the comfort of their desk chair. The online version of the conference will feature live streaming, recording sessions, live chats and a discussion forum. 

Will you attend? Is online conference attendence the wave of the future... or can Internet-based networking ever measure up to the real deal?

Please leave a comment on this post sharing your thoughts. 

Posted in: RWAs, Training/CEUs
13

A few months ago we blogged about several calculation tools that can make your work easier. Since then the Missouri Rural Water Association has released two more apps for Apple and Android phones. We also discovered this proactive organization has a suite of online calculators. 

Here are the details of the helpful tools (relevant to small systems everywhere) developed by this organization:

Smartphone Applications

We will update this post when these new apps reach the iTunes store.
 

Interactive Water Tools

Have you used any of these tools? Let us know what you think by leaving a comment.

 

Posted in: Helpful Tips, RWAs
14

The list of selected awardees from the Environmental Protection Agency's recent $15 million RFA for Training and Technical Assistance for Small Systems has been announced. According to the Agency's website, "this initiative supports EPA’s continuing efforts to promote sustainability and public health protection for communities served by small systems."

  • SDWA Compliance - Texas Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) and National Rural Water Association (NRWA)
  • Capacity Development - New Mexico Environmental Finance Center (NMEFC) 
  • Wastewater/Private Wells - Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP)
  • Technical Assistance to Tribes - Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP)

Documents and events from each of these organizations are indexed in our database. USDA Rural Development also operates a Technical Assistance and Training grant program that supports outreach to small water and wastewater systems. 

 

27
I was at the Alabama Rural Water Association Conference a few weeks ago and there was a really interesting talk by a lawyer for an Alabama utility.  The utility is being sued by a few of their customers for poor water quality even though their water meets all health standards.  If a water supply provides water that meets all of the health standards and their operation meets all of the regulatory requirements, should their customers be able to sue them if they percieve there are water quality problems? Thats a tricky question for sure.
 
Safe Harbor
A safe harbor law basically protects someone from civil suit if they are meeting all of the legal and professional requirements for the services they provide.  For instance, a prosecutor in a district attorney's office has immunity from civil action, even if they help put an innocent man in jail.  For a water system, this type of law would mean that your customers cannot sue you for percieved water quality problems if you are meeting all of the requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act and your state regulations.  Alabama currently does not have such a law.
 
What's Happening In Alabama
Because of the lawsuit currently going on in Alabama, there is a push to pass a "safe harbor" law as an amendment to the Alabama SDWA. It's going through their state legislature now and appears to have alot of support.  In the ongoing lawsuit, 10 homeowners that are spread throughout a 53 home subdivision, claim their water has oil and grease in it.  Testing by the utility and extensive testing by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management show there are only normal, background levels in the water (a trip blank even had similar levels in it).  I don't want to get into the details, but 3000 customers use water from the same main, and some of the allegations (like their water catches fire), are hard to understand if the water is meeting all of the SDWA standards. 
 
What It Means
I'm not a judge or jury, but I do believe that if a utility is meeting its legal obligations and works with their customers fairly and openly, there should be some reasonable expectation that the utility met its obligation and has their customers best interests at heart. As the speaker said, without this legislation, any customer could sue any utility and that could lead to a jury setting water standards in that state, "regulation by litigation" is the term he used.  Can water systems afford litigation because of unhappy customers? 
 
How about you?  Does your state have "Safe Harbor" legislation attached to its SDWA rules?  Do you think it's a good idea?

 

06
by Jeremiah Corbin, Source Water Protection Specialist at South Dakota Association of Rural Water Systems
 
 
Put up signs
Post signs along the border of your source water protection area to notify people that
any pollution in that area can affect the quality of local drinking water.

Use and dispose of harmful materials properly
Don’t dump them on the ground! Hazardous waste that is dumped or buried can contaminate the soil and move down into the ground water, or be carried into nearby surface waters by runoff during rainstorms. You might be surprised to learn that a number of products you use at home contain hazardous or toxic substances. Products like motor oil, pesticides, leftover paints or paint cans, mothballs, flea collars, weed killers, household cleaners and even a number of medicines contain materials that can be harmful to surface water and ground water.

Don’t overuse pesticides or fertilizers
You might apply fertilizers to make your grass thick and green, your flowers colorful and your vegetable crop abundant. You also might use pesticides to keep bugs from ruining what the fertilizers have helped to produce. What you might not know is that many of these fertilizers and pesticides contain hazardous chemicals that can travel through the soil and contaminate ground water. If you feel you must use these chemicals, use them in moderation.

Volunteer in your community
Find a watershed or wellhead protection organization in your community and volunteer to help. If there are no active groups, consider starting one. Use EPA’s “Adopt Your Watershed” to locate groups in your community, or visit the Watershed Information Network’s “How to Start a Watershed Team”. These tools can be located by searching epa.gov.
 
Identify ways you can help prevent runoff pollution from your home, business or farm
Check out Give Water a Hand (for students) or the National Farm*A*Syst/ Home*A*Syst Voluntary Assessment Programs (for farmers and homeowners) to find out how you can be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.
 
Join in a beach, stream or wetland cleanup
You can make new friends while you help protect source water.

Prepare a presentation about your watershed for a school or civic organization
Discuss water quality threats, including polluted runoff and habitat loss. Highlight things people can do to protect water quality, including limiting fertilizer use and eliminating the use of herbicides and pesticides. Research your presentation using EPA’s Nonpoint Source Program.

Organize a storm drain stenciling project
Stencil a message next to the street drain reminding people “Dump No Waste - Drains to River” with the image of a fish. Stencils are also available for lakes, streams, bays, ground water and oceans, as well as the simple “Protect Your Water” logo with the image of a glass and faucet. Produce and distribute a flyer for households to remind residents that storm drains dump directly into your local water body.
 
This article was originally published in the January-February issue of ServiceLine, a publication of the South Dakota Association of Rural Water Systems.
 
SmallWaterSupply.org Comment: This information would make a great handout for your customers, in addition to reminding you about the importance of source water protection for your community.  Contact us if you have any questions.

 

12

You may have read about pending legislation in Congress that would eliminate the requirement to mail the annual Consumer Confidence Report for public water systems who have no violations. (Instead, in-compliance systems could post the CCR to their website.) The National Rural Water Association is supportive of this potential change, citing unnecessary cost and time burden for small utilities.

I certainly do agree that small communities face unprecendented challenges in maintaining their water and wastewater systems. State and federal funding is harder to come by and when it does, it has more strings attached. With so many operators retiring and so much infrastructure that needs upgrading, we've neared a financial crisis point.

We talk a lot here at SmallWaterSupply.org about the value of water, the need to proactively communicate with customers and how, these items together, can develop an engaged and informed public that can help us find a way out of today's troubles.

On the surface, it seems like a good idea, but I wonder... is eliminating an established line of communication, often the only connection the average citizen has to his water outside of billing, really the best way to look for financial efficiency? Could it do more harm than good and set back the efforts of national public outreach campaigns, state capacity development programs and direct technical assistance?

 

28
This is the 3rd post covering the communication toolbox, a new tool available from CDC on how to prepare, deal with, and learn from situations where you need to (precautionary) or have to (mandatory) communicate with your customers to advise them of a drinking water situation in your community.  The 1st blog post provided an overview of the toolbox, the 2nd blog post discussed the introduction section of the toolbox, which explained some of the basics about when and why you should communicate with the public. Today, we'll provide you with some suggestions they provide for small systems.
 
For Small Systems Using the Toolbox
The toolbox was written for water systems, both large and small.  But, it was developed with both in mind.  We've already mentioned that we think the toolbox is one of the most complete tools available to help you with communicating with the public during an emergency, and on page 13, they offer some suggestions for small systems, recognizing that sometimes small systems may not have the capacity to implement all of the suggestions listed in the toolbox.  Basically, these are the things every small system should do to be prepared, regardless of the emergency.
 
1. Identify and prioritize specific tools or sections in the toolbox to use.  The toolbox is worth going through, cover to cover, to really understand what it means to communicate with your customers and to be prepared in an emergency.  In doing so, you will find many great ideas that will help you prepare, act, and recover from an emergency situation.  Pick and choose what you think will work for your specific situation and within the capacity of your system and community.
 
2. Incorporate water advisory protocol planning into regular activities, such as sanitary surveys and updating emergency response plans.  I'm sure some of you think this is "beyond" what you can do, and may not even have an emergency response plan in place for your system.  That is a great place to start and there are some great templates available from RCAP and Rural Water that walk you through development of a plan.  Do that first, and you will understand why its important to be prepared and think ahead, rather than react to an emergency. (call or email us, we can help, as can your local TA providers.  See the links to the templates below).
 
3. Build water advisory protocols into regular communication, such as customer updates.  Again, some of you may look at this and say, I never send stuff to my customers.  Why not?  When operators tell me their customers want "free" water, and don't value what they do, I tell them to start marketing to their customers, help them understand what a service you provide, how important safe water is to your community. Operators can't just do the technical stuff anymore, they have to engage their communities to understand the need and importance of safe water.  Along with that is the importance of dealing with emergency situations.
 
4. Partner with local public health and neighboring water systems. Planning for an emergency means working with others outside your community.  When a real disaster happens, you need to know what to do, who you can call, who you can rely on for help.  You need to ask yourself, what does your community deserve? Doing it all on your own usually ends up hurting your community when a disaster occurs. It's the responsible thing to do, and best for your system and customers.  This would also be a good time to mention your state's WARN program.  Look into it, consider how it might benefit your community.
 
Getting Started
Remember these suggestions as you go through the toolbox.  Find the pieces that you think will work for you.  It states that many of the actions you can consider taking, as described in the toolbox, shouldn't require outside support from consultants or others.  It also says building a network of partners and organizations to work with in an emergency is the key to success.  We agree.
 
Should you have any questions, let us know. We will gladly help you navigate through the material and find resources that you can use with your customers for both emergency response and just for marketing the value of your water system.
 
Below are links to some of the resources mentioned above:
 
Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP)
 
National Rural Water Association (NRWA)
 
Water & Wastewater Agency Response Networks (WARN)
(click on the "WARN Regions" tab to find your state WARN program)

 

How To Run Your System Like A Business is a series at SmallWaterSupply.org, appearing on Monday.

 

04
As you may or may not realize, some of the Federal programs that support operator training and technical assistance for small systems were not funded this fiscal year (starting Oct 1).  This will affect many states as training providers look at charging for training that has been free in the past, and technical assistance providers struggle to maintain staff levels.
 
Small System Technical Assistance
The programs I am referring to are for the state Rural Water Assocations and the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) affiliates.  Here in Illinois, the message from the most recent Illinois Rural Water Association newsletter is that training will no longer be free.  We have seen the same from several other state Rural Water Associations, as some have eliminated part of their training programs or lost staff altogether. It's the same for the RCAP affiliates and their state programs.  Many are losing staff and that will mean fewer services provided. Its a frustrating time as we watch the organizations operators have come to rely on struggle with funding issues. It's also a worry that the expertise these folks provide may not come back, and thats everyone's loss.
 
Understanding Value
As a small system operator, now is the time to realize that this may be the new normal for the forseeable future.  Free or not, you still have to maintain your CEU's.  That means you need to budget for training, some of you for the first time in a number of years.  What it also means, I hope, is that any operator who has taken advantage of the free training opportunities in the past realizes how valuable a service it has been.
29
One Of Our Users Asked
We felt this was a pretty relevant topic for many of you so we are posting the following question and response from our operator forum:
 
"A Diatomaceous Earth plant is experiencing a high Raw and Finish water pH of 8.5 and greater. The source water is near a major road and I am certain road salt is a contributing factor ( I do not have an alkalinity reading yet). Acid dosing of the clear well or filter outlet seems to be in order. I have never used acid to reduce pH in a water pant and am looking for recommendations or reference material to get this process going."
 
Getting You Answers
When we need answers to technical questions we are lucky to have experts nearby that we can count on.  We are fortunate in Illinois that our rural water training specialist, Wayne Nelson, has seen and done it all. I certainly rely on his expertise when a technical issue comes up. I sent this question to Wayne, and here is his response:

Based on the information given, the addition of an acid in the treatment process could be used to lower finished water pH. I would first recommend finding the exact source of the problem. If the problem is caused by road salt other problems can occur such as high sodium levels causing possible health problems in immuno-compromised persons (hypertension) as well as the addition of chorides to the drinking water. While there is no MCL for sodium levels in drinking water (only a recommended level) high levels can also adversely affect the taste of drinking water in elevated levels.

The most common type of acid used in lowering pH is 23% sulfuric acid fed either straight or in solution with water. I can't address its use in other states from a regulatory standpoint but if an Illinois public water supply plans to feed the acid, it first needs to obtain a construction permit/then operating permit from the IEPA Permit Section before the treatment is implemented. This recommendation applies to the continued use of the acid. A simple one time treatment of the clearwell would most likely not solve the problem since sodium levels in the surface water source could remain constant and also could rise again every time rainfall or snowmelt occurs in the watershed. I hope that this provides some direction for the operator.

Wayne Nelson
Training Specialist
Illinois Rural Water Assn.
 
Check The Forum Out
Take a look at our forum and let us know what you think.  It will only be as useful as you make it, so join in with questions, or to answer some of the questions we have posted. You do need to register on the site to be able to post to the forum, but its free and pretty painless.  If you have any questions about registering or logging in, check out our help videos on the front page that walk you through the process.
18
In June, we announced the kick-off of our internship pilot program. Over the next several months, we'll be documenting the progress, challenges and lessons learned in this experience.
 
Two Communities So Far
We have found two communities, so far, that we will be working with this summer. They will be utilizing our intern to assist them in developing tools and information that they can use to help run their systems more effectively. Each community is in a different place, and has unique issues they want help with. 
 
Our idea, when we started this program, was to find a few communities interested in developing ERP's, asset management plans, and long range plans, and have our intern, who is a Class C water and Class D wastewater operator in Illinois, provide some of the man power necessary to develop the inventories, look up information, etc. 
 
Every System Is Unique
Boy is this an understatement. Neither community fit the model we envisioned for this project. Community A, for lack a better name, is actually in really good shape. Their operator and village president are on the same page, they have an idea of where they want to go, they have an ERP (with help from ILRWA), and they have a little money in the bank. It's a community of only 800 people, and they are doing a great job managing their system. They actually contacted us, after seeing the article in our newsletter, and asked for specific help with asset management.
 
The best way to describe the situation in Community A is they are doing well and are being proactive and moving further forward. They are in a classic situation where succession planning needs to be a part of the picture - with the village president and operator on the verge of retiring in 5 years or less. They have the CUPSS software from USEPA and were a little intimidated with trying to work with it, so Nate's main job for them is going to be to get CUPSS set up for them. We are also using the new "AM Kan Work" manual from NMEFC, and plan to have Nate develop both sets of tools for each of the communities that ask for our help.
 
Community #2
This community was suggested to us by Illinois RCAP, and we are grateful for their help and support.  Community #2 is a community that is starting from scratch. We haven't talked to them yet, our first meeting is tomorrow, but the information we do have suggests that it is a community that has had significant problems in the past, and are now stepping up with new managment and village officers to try and get a handle on their water and wastewater systems. They first need an evaluation of where their systems stand, so Nate will be conducting a Vulnerability Assessment for them. Based on those results we will move forward. Illinois RCAP is also assisting this community, and will be advising Nate as we work with the community. 
 
Working Out Better Than We Had Hoped
The goal of the program is to expose Nate to a variety of community situations that will better prepare him for managing his own system, while providing a measureable benefit to each of the communities that participates. We are already seeing that Nate's exposure to even these two communities, is going to go along way in preparing him for his first head operator position. And for the communities, we are developing plans with Nate that will really help them move forward and meet their needs.
 
Note #1: We are still looking for 1-2 communities of under 1000 people within an hour of St Louis, that would be interested in participating in this program.
 
How To Run Your System Like A Business is a series at SmallWaterSupply.org, appearing on Mondays
01

When an EF-5 tornado ravaged Joplin, MO on May 22, our community of water and environmental professionals was quick to respond. Rural Water circuit riders were among those who aided recovery efforts, along with officials from Missouri DNR and US EPA. In just 6 days, the boil water order was lifted for the American Water-served town of 49,000.

Missouri American spokeswoman Ann Dettmer credits their emergency response plan and strong relationships with local providers in aiding the water system's quick recovery. Though the treatment plant was relatively unharmed by the tornado (and stayed online), there was widespread power loss and damage to water mains and service equipment. Staff from Missouri Rural Water provided manpower in the first three days to make repairs and assist where needed, including helping to restore pressure to the system. 

Further Reading

Photo Credit: National Rural Water Association / Missouri Rural Water Association

25
Membership Has It's Privaledges
Operator associations offer many benefits to their members.  They are a resource you can call on when you have questions.  They know and understand the rules in your state and can help you evaluate how you are doing.  They also are there to support you.  They fight for you in Washington as well as your state capital.  They keep up with all of the political happenings and can provide you guidance on how to act on those things when they arise.  They develop supportive legislation and lobby for its passage. Their staffs have years of experience that you can call on when questions arise.  They organize meetings and conferences that provide you with opportunities to gain CEU's.  They organize training events.  Their efforts lead to networking opportunities for your neighbors and peers.
 
In addition, they provide resources through newsletters and magazines that provide you with both assistance and knowledge that you can use to develop your own skills and careers.  Many associations also have specialized services that you can request.  Some of those services include leak detection, loaning of equipment, specialized training trailors, and business services for things like determining rates and developing business plans. I also believe that being part of your peer organizations helps you just by meeting other members and getting to know them.
 
But Being A Member Isn't Enough
We are all busy, but being active in an association is an important part of becoming a better operator.  By getting involved, even if a little out of your comfort zone, you will have the opportunity to work with others and see how others deal with situations that you might not have had to deal with.  For instance, being on a committee, you get closer to the association staff as well as the other committee members.  This leads to new supportive relationships that will pay benefits for you down the road.  It builds "community" among you and your peers and helps you to learn more about others, their issues, and creates a support network.  Ask anyone on an association board or committee about their service and what it has meant to them, and most, if not all, will say it has taught them more than they ever imagined, and provided them with some of their closest professional friendships.
 
For Water Operators
The two largest associations for water operators are the National Rural Water Association (NRWA) and the American Water Works Association (AWWA).  To join either, you do so through their state affiliate association.  In Illinois, I am a member of the Illinois Rural Water Association and of the Illinois Section of the American Water Works Association.  Both organizations are a great resource for their operators and offer a variety of benefits, from reduced fees for training, to providing leak detection services, to assisting communities with compliance problems in their dealings with their state primacy agency, to meeting with a town board to explain to them why their system needs an upgrade.  To find out more about what your state association offers, check out their websites.
 
For Wastewater Operators
The largest wastewater operator association is the Water Environment Federation (WEF).  The Federation is made up of state affiliate associations, and in Illinois that is the Illinois Water Environment Assocation.  I am ashamed to say that I have not joined our state wastewater association yet, but I do plan to. They also offer many of the same services I have already mentioned, just for the wastewater side of things. Your state rural water association also has wastewater staff and resources that you can call on. Their approach to technical assistance looks at the whole of the community and takes into account that for smaller systems, many times the water and wastewater operator might be the same person.
 
That's It?
Actually, no, thats not it.  In many states, distance issues or geographic issues, like mountains, make it necessary to create regional groups that allow operators to stay closer to home.  Some of these smaller associations are affiliated with the state organizations and some are totally independent.  What they offer, however, is a chance to get to know the operators in your immediate area, or with more like interests.  As an example, here is a list of the Indiana Associations that provide wastewater training (From IDEM): Alliance of Indiana Rural Water (the state RW affiliate), Indiana Section of AWWA, Indiana Industrial Operators Association, Indiana Rural Water Association, Central Indiana Operators Assocation, Indiana Water Environment Association, Northern Indiana Operators Association, and the Southern Indiana Operators Association.  There are a lot of opportunities out there for you to network and get involved, so check out whats available in your state.  You'll be glad you did.
 
The Big System-Small System Issue
I don't know any simple way to address this, but the perception is out there that for water operators, small systems typically belong to the state rural water association and the large systems typically belong to the state AWWA section.  Maybe thats typical in your state, maybe not.  As the manager of SmallWaterSupply.org, I see benefits to belonging to both, no matter what your system size is.  I have come to rely on both of my state associations for advice and support.  There are differences in services, sometimes signifiant ones, but that doesn't mean they don't compliment each other.  For instance, I get the IRWA newsletter and magazine, and both have information that helps me do my job.  I also get the ISAWWA magazine and the AWWA magazines (Opflow and Journal), all of which provide timely information on operator topics and other relevant information.
 
How Did I Do?
Our motive is simple, to use SmallWaterSupply.org to support small system water and wastewater operators, and so far, I haven't ran across anyone who doesn't see what we are doing as beneficial.  Being involved in my state associations is one way I am able to stay engaged.  I suggest you look at what groups are available to you and find the best fit. I realize that services and associations vary from state to state, so please send us an email if you want us to highlight a special feature of an association you belong to.  I know I haven't done justice to these groups in this post and each probably deserve their own, so please speak up.
06
Problems With Public Notification
Recently, I attended the Wyoming Association of Rural Water Systems (WARWS) Spring Conference and I heard a talk that was really interesting and new to me.  Every system has public notification requirements and the requirements for reporting to your customers can sometimes seem a little outdated in todays technology filled world.  In Wyoming, there are areas where there is no local television station, so there is no one to provide a report to.  In those areas, many people have satellite television with no local news or info.  Also, sending press releases to newspapers can be ineffective, especially today when fewer and fewer homes take the paper anymore.  In a time crucial emergency, such as a boil order, operators are left with putting out hang tags or contacting every customer individually.  This can be expensive, time consuming, and worst of all, hang tags can be ineffective, should they be thrown away without being read or blow off in the wind.
 
Where Things Are Headed
This was all brought up during a talk by a company that sells public notification services, Swiftreach Networks.  Never heard of these services? Neither had I, or at least I didn’t realize what it was.  What these services do is provide you with a way to contact every customer electronically through cell phone, home phone, email, SMS text, and even twitter and facebook.  These systems are very robust and surprisingly affordable, but what they really offer is a way to be sure that your customers receive your message.  The way they explained it, the system allows you, the operator, to set up a message tailored to your needs, and when you use the system, it sends that message out to every one of your customers.  The system keeps track of who answers, who listens to the whole message, and provides detailed reporting of the status of whether each customer was reached.  It can even require that the customer press “1” to acknowledge that they received the message.  Regardless of availability of other media, having a record of who was contacted is a great feature for your peace of mind.
 
Why They Are Better
The really special thing about these sorts of applications is that they can be shared by all of your community personnel and emergency responders.  The examples they gave were many, from informing a community to stop drinking their water because of a train derailment and spill, to reminding your community to set out your recycling, to having elderly folks in home environments press 1 to confirm that they are ok each night.  Here at the University of Illinois, they have implemented a similar system for staff and students. It came about because of some of the campus shootings that have occurred across the country, but it is also used to provide timely non-emergency information to the campus community.  It can be used to inform about road closings, upcoming meetings, just about anything you can think of that would be relevant to your customers and community. 
 
Roxbury Example
Swiftreach Networks gave me a great example of how their system was used to support a community water supply.  Roxbury Water Company had an isolated E. Coli outbreak that only affected a small number of homes, but the news media picked up the story and incorrectly identified the outbreak as system wide.  It caused an immediate scare in the community and the city personnel were faced with how to deal with notifying all of their customers with the correct information.  In addition, they started getting calls from scared customers that were flooding their system.  Using their Swift911 system, the community was able to send out telephone notifications correctly describing the situation right away, which allowed them to reach everyone quickly and also saved their staff tons of time on the phone with concerned customers.  What’s unique about these systems is that your customers can provide multiple phone numbers, numbers for text messaging, and email addresses, so that they are more likely to receive your message.
 
Our Disclaimer
Swiftreach Networks is one of several companies that provide these types of services.  We at SmallWaterSupply.org don’t endorse any individual company, and we recommend you do your own research to find out which system might best serve your needs.  That said, we greatly appreciate the time Swiftreach Networks gave us to learn more about how these systems work and their track record with small systems is impressive.  Whether you contact them or another company, these services are remarkable and its worth your time to find out how a system like this might benefit your community.
 
 
02
You've spent time studying for a certification exam but aren't quite sure you're ready. Or, it's been a while and you want to make sure you're still at the top of your game. Online quizzes for operators are a great place to practice and Minnesota Rural Water has a great selection to start.

MRWA's collection includes 39 different quizzes in the following topics, a majority of which are not state-specific:
  • Minnesota Water Works Operations
  • Operator Math
  • Water
  • Wastewater
  • Non-transient Non-community Water Systems
The benefit of an online quiz is instant gratification. The quiz will tell you whether you are right or wrong and provide the correct answer. This makes studying easier and helps you use your time effectively. Plus, taking a quiz on the Internet is even pretty fun!
 
We'd love to know, do you know of other organizations with online quizzes? Link them up here in the comments.
20
There Is Still Funding Available
The money in the Recovery Act for funding drinking water and wastewater infrastructure might be finished, but the "regular" funding available from the states and USDA annually is still available.  There has been some talk out there that because ARRA is over, you might have missed out on grant and loan opportunities, but be sure to ask the funders in your state what might be available.
 
Who Are the Funders?
There is this really helpful, but not well known, website that lists all of the funders in each state, as well as their contact information.  The Small Community Water Infrastructure Exchange is a website of water infrastructure funding officials from across the country.  Click on "contacts by state" and you will find a list of people who can help you with various grant and loan programs in your state.  You can also contact your State Rural Water Association or State RCAP Affiliate and they can direct you to the right resources and answer some of your questions.
 
Is The Paperwork Overwhelming?
Filling out all of the application forms can be really intimidating, and I'm sure in some cases its at least slowed down a community's efforts to seek funding, if not stop it all together.  Using consultants to develop and complete application forms can be expensive, and for some of you, beyond your current financial capabilities.  Again, you should contact your technical assistance providers for assistance.  Your State Rural Water Association and State RCAP Affiliate both recieve funding from USDA just so that they can help you with grant and loan applications and development.  There are even grants available to do the initial design and planning for your project.
 
Half The Battle Is Knowing Where To Get Information
If you are having trouble with the forms, application process, or even knowing who it is you should be talking to, contact Rural Water or RCAP in your state.  If you don't know who at those groups to talk to, call us, we will make the initial call for you, find out who can help you get started, and get that information to you.  We are here to help!
 
How to Run your Small Water Supply like a Business is a weekly series at SmallWaterSupply.org, appearing on most Mondays.
04
I Was At ERWoW This Week
I attended the Evergreen Rural Water of Washington Fall Conference this week in Vancouver WA.  The opening session speaker was Denise Clifford from the Washington Department of Health, and as it so happens, the current President of ASDWA.  Here is the gist of what she had to say to the operators in attendance.
 
Things Are Going To Change
Apparently, Washington State has major budget issues.  I can understand that, coming from Illinois (second only to California in state debt).  On top of that problem, they have an unusually large number of water systems, with 3975 regulated community water supplies with less than 1000 connections (Wow!)  Because of the number of systems they have, compliance and the ability to oversee their compliance program is really going to be a struggle.  So, they have sat down and looked at what needs to change, and how they need to approach compliance issues, so that they can maintain state supervision of their drinking water program.
 
Two Big Changes
The first change is going to be in their approach to compliance.  We've been talking about capacity development for years, and helping water supplies become sustainable, but in Washington State, its going to become an active program aimed at helping those systems succeed at staying in business. Many small community systems in Washington, and everywhere else for that matter, still think the government is going to pay for their upgrades, and they can keep running business as usual.  Those systems are going to find themselves in a real hole, because there just isn't going to be the money available to expect government help, systems are going to have to find a way to make it on their own, and that means being financially responsible for their own upgrades.
 
The second change that Washington is planning is a shift in the fees that water supplies pay to the state.  Fee's haven't been raised in nearly 20 years, and because of state budget cuts, to really have an active program aimed at helping systems have the capacity to succeed, they are going to put the funding for their program on those that are receiving their services, the water supplies in Washington.  The reality is this, water supplies can help pay to keep the compliance program with the state of Washington, or the state can give up their primacy and the federal government can come in and run it for the state.
 
Capacity Development Program
The way DOH is approaching their program changes is to look at systems having the financial, managerial, and technical capacity to succeed.  Denise said that the technical capacity and the technical ability of their operators is already there, its the managerial and financial capacity that they plan to focus on.  I think they've hit the nail right on the head.  The problems that keep coming up all over the country are small systems that either have decision makers (boards, mayors, etc) that aren't willing to support their operator financially because they don't really understand the value of their water system and refuse to raise rates, or those same decision makers just not understanding how to run a system or manage the issues that are necessary to be successful.  I think Washington is going to end up leading many other states down the same path.
 
Putting Compliance On The Backs Of The Systems
The rate structure they are considering calls for a small increase in the flat system fee, then an additional fee based on the number of connections you have, around $1.50 per connection, capped at $100,000 for the big systems. Everyone's first thought about higher fees and fees based on size of system is that its the state taking more money to do the same work.  I think that isn't seeing the big picture.  DOH wants to create a program that is sustainable so that they can count on resources being there to maintain their programs to really support their systems and operators.  In the past, budget cuts forced them to stop doing direct trainings and workshops with operators. Thats one example of a direct service that provides benefits, and something that every state should do that Washington had to cut. 
 
A program based on user fees is much more stable, and also gives the systems more leverage, if you will, because they are buying into the program. They are asking for input from systems, and are doing a survey to do just that.  It's your chance to get involved and have a say.
 
Times are a changin', as they say, and you can either change with it or have someone come in and do it for you. 
 
30

 

I spent a few days job shadowing a circuit rider from the Illinois Rural Water Association. A memorable stop we made was a small town in Illinois that has a reverse osmosis (RO) water treatment plant. This state-of-the art plant, which is just over 8 years old, took 3 million dollars to build. It takes two operators to run the RO plant; Mark is the lead man, and has been a water operator for 23 years, and Travis has been an operator for three years. Mark and Travis gave me a tour of the plant and explained how they work to provide their town with clean water.
 
From Well to Tap
 
Before the town updated their water supply, water in the town was said to be black. The distribution system was also outdated, built in 1889. When the town decided to build a new treatment plant, they also decided to drill new wells in order to obtain cleaner groundwater. The town drilled three 85-foot wells located about ten miles outside of town. Two of these wells are run at a time.
 
From the wells, the groundwater is pumped to the treatment plant and sent through iron and manganese removal sand filters. From these filters, about 600 gpm (gallons per minute) of the water is sent to an RO unit, while 215 gpm is sent to a holding tank. Of the water sent to the RO unit, 150 gpm concentrated is sent to a settling lagoon. The rest is aerated for carbon dioxide removal, mixed with the holding tank water, and sent to town. It takes about three days for the water that leaves the plant to reach the town. The town has around 1775 service connections and uses about 395,000 gallons of water a day.
 
Reverse Osmosis Treatment
 
 
Water that is treated with reverse osmosis is forced through the RO unit at a pressure of 134 psi. To put this into perspective, tap water runs at 50 psi. I was told that the membranes are so small that even a virus can’t fit through. Because of this, the water becomes 100% purified. RO is such an efficient process that it removes essential nutrients, so it’s necessary to add untreated water to the RO water before it is sent to town. Although the process is complex, the town’s residents are happy to have some of the highest quality tap water around.
 

 

27
On Wednesday, we sent out our first newsletter.  If you weren't on the recipient list, you should be, and luckily, you can still take a look here.
 
Signing Up
There is a signup for our newsletter on both the homepage of our website and on our facebook page.  It's simple and confidential.  As I've said many many times in the past, we are here as a free service to operators, we aren't buying, selling or advertising anything. 
 
Did You Say Facebook Page?
That's right we started a Facebook Fan Page for SmallWaterSupply.org.  If you are wondering why, let me explain.  In Illinois, 67% of the operators of systems with less than 500 connections are over 50 years old.  On the other side, only 8% of the operators of systems under 500 connections are less than 40 years old.  We've all heard about the potential for an operator shortage, and many industry groups are already working on campaigns to target young people to consider the operator profession. 
 
We totally agree that we need to do a better job of marketing the benefits and strengths of being an operator.  We are starting to get involved by providing a few internships to high school students and working with Rural Water to job shadow with circuit riders.  That, in addition to using the web and social media sites like Facebook, all help promote the operator profession.  We feel that having a Facebook page makes the profession more visible to the younger generation that have grown up using Facebook.
 
More On Careers
It's not ready yet, but hopefully soon we will launch a careers page with links to a lot of great information for anyone considering this field.  It will also have interviews with operators who can talk first hand about why they love what they do and interviews with some of the interns who can describe what their experiences were like. 
 
So, check out our Facebook page if you like, all you have to do is click on the facebook icon on our homepage.  We will be promoting events we plan to be at, and giving others a chance to start sharing ideas.  More importantly though, if you have any ideas or suggestions on how to get more young people interested in becoming operators, or how to better market the operator profession, please share them with us.
25
Continuing with some of the information I learned at the Non-Transient, Non-Community Recertification Workshop in Illinois a few weeks ago, one of the things that really stuck with me was, "Always ask why". You really need to know how it works and what the consequences are of any task you perform with your system.
 
Operators Are An Independent Bunch
By the nature of their jobs and responsibilities, operators are independent and are used to solving problems by themselves or in non-traditional ways.  They do what they need to, to keep things running and do so typically with limited resources.  Sometimes though, that personality can also lead to situations where they "learn the hard way", or "learn by experience".  The problem with doing that when running a water system is that learning the hard way can affect your customers, cause health problems, or put you at a safety risk.
 
There's Also Murphy's Law To Deal With
Wayne (the instructor) asked the attendees to think about when problems generally occur with their systems.   Is it on a Monday morning when everyone is at work ready to go, or is it on a holiday, or the day after you've left for vacation and left the system in the hands of your young, new operator-in-training?  Everyone nodded, understanding his point, and everyone could think to a situation where some problem had occurred at a really bad time.  Which is exactly why you and your staff always need to ask why.
 
Knowledge Is King
It's not enough to know the basic tasks involved with running your water system, "Bob said to add a gallon to the tank after every backwash cycle and I wouldn't have to worry about anything else."  You need to know why you are adding that chemical, what it does, what will happen if you don't, and what will happen if you spill it.  Everyone who might be assisting you needs to understand your system as well as you do, so that if something goes wrong, or a valve sticks, or a pump fails, or the line gets pinched, it won't become a major event that risks the health of your customers or the safety of you and your staff.  Taking shortcuts leads to losing your understanding of both the system and why the guidelines are there in the first place.
 
Protect Yourself
Most safety hazards can be managed with training and by following safety guidelines on proper handling, use, storage, maintenance, and disposal.  Most accidents occur when these things aren't followed.  If you can't follow the proper procedures because of the cost, have a TA provider come to your board meeting to explain what the costs might be should a preventable accident actually occur (can you say lawsuit?).  Wayne told a really sad story about an operator that was installing pipe and didn't use a trench box for just the last section of pipe.  It cost him his life.  It was a totally avoidable accident caused by being in a hurry.
 
Some Safety Guidelines Are Overkill
There are reasons for all of the safety measures you are expected to follow as an operator.  Some might seem ridiculous, but the reality is that they are there for a reason, and many times someone before you learned the hard way that its not so ridiculous after all.  After hearing the things that Wayne has seen over the last 30 or so years, the operators who have died or been seriously hurt in avoidable accidents, I would recommend following every safety precaution and guideline that was provided for me.  No guidelines are overkill.
 
16
Along with the discussion of chlorine gas safety from Aug 10, Wayne talked about the safety issues related to sodium hypochlorite.  It's becoming the more "popular" choice for small and medium sized water and wastewater plants, but it has issues of its own.
 
About Sodium Hypochlorite
Liquid bleach is a colorless to light-green colored liquid thats 12%-15% active chlorine. It's a Class 8 corrosive and strong oxidizer. It's considered by some to be a safer alternative to chlorine gas, but in reality, it can be just as dangerous when handled, used, and stored improperly.
  • Sodium hypochlorite is a strong oxider, and as such must be kept away from acids.
  • if adding flouride in your system, any mixing can cause the formation of mustard gas, they must be stored away from each other so spills go to different drains
  • heat and sunlight can cause it to quickly decompose, so it must be kept in a cool area
  • many problems with using it have to do with the chemical-feeder 
Chemical Feeders
There are a number of problems that are easily corrected regarding chemical feeders.  Here are some problems Wayne has seen:
  • located next to same equipment, using same tank or feed pump
  • feeders not labeled to correctly idenify them, several lines side by side
  • containers or carboys not properly labeled
  • no PPE used when handling chemical
  • no eye-wash or shower nearby
  • no encased feed lines
  • using same hand pump for multiple chemicals
  • fill pipes/hoses left submerged can allow back-siphoning
The bottom line is that all chemicals have safety issues and they deserve everyones respect. Learning about your system and the proper use of the equipment and chemicals that you need to provide safe water is always a worthwhile effort and should be a manditory part of your systems management plan.  
10
At the NTNC Recertification class I attended last week, Wayne Nelson (IRWA) spent a good deal of time talking about workplace safety and disinfectants. Chlorine gas is an important issue because it's still the most widely used disinfectant (at least in Illinois) What really hit home were the real life examples of what not to do that seem pretty simple, but don't always get done when you are short handed, don't have enough resources, or just aren't using your common sense.  All of the information below comes from the class and Wayne was nice enough to let me use some of his material here.
 
About Chlorine Gas
When used properly, chlorine gas is no more dangerous than other types of disinfectants (sodium hypochlorite-liquid, Calcium chlorite-powder, Potassium permanganate).  In fact, all disinfectants are dangerous if you don't understand how they interact/react with other common chemicals.  Chlorine gas:
  • 2.5 times heavier than air
  • expands 460 times from liquid to gas
  • causes irritation, anxiety, loss of senses, and possible death
  • is rarely a killer
  • injuries occur because of failure to leave area, most of the time
What You Should Know
Here is some practical information that you should know about chlorine gas, it's storage, and use.
  • the fusible plug on chlorine gas tanks melts at between 158-170 degrees
  • if tank can't be opened with a 6-inch wrench, send it back, shouldn't be hard to open
  • you should only open the valve 1/4 turn
  • your water or wastewater plant should have a plan in place for dealing with a chlorine leak (probably more about this in a future post)
  • when changing tanks, should have 2 people involved
  • have appropriate safety equipment available
  • maintain a safe temperature in your chlorine room - too warm can melt plug, too cold can freeze lines and cause leaks
What Not To Do
Wayne went over a bunch of examples of systems that weren't prepared for a leak or weren't managing their chlorine correctly.  Here are some things not to do, or that you should be aware of.
  • Never try to shut off a chlorine valve without a SCOT-pack or hazmat suit, you cannot just hold your breath (a lot of injuries have occurred this way)
  • don't store your SCOT-packs in the chlorine room, this is something Wayne has seen a number of times
  • never spray water to dispel a gas plume
  • don't open the valve 100%, makes it much more difficult to shut off
  • don't try to fix it yourself, follow a plan, get help, be safe
  • don't assume you know how to use the safety equipment, get trained
  • don't be afraid to ask questions, many times someone shows you what to do, but not why its important.  You need to know why, so you will know how to deal with problems. 
05
I attended the Illinois Non-Transient, Non-Community recertification class yesterday at Kishwaukee College.  The instructor was Wayne Nelson, a training specialist from the Illinois Rural Water Association, who has been an operator since the 70's and he has been with IRWA for the last 16 years.  The things he's seen and done really put things in perspective.
 
 
I Sure Learned A Lot
The class covered the things in the Illinois Adminstrative Code that are required for NTNC operators.  In Illinois, NTNC operators are allowed to use the Operator Basics Training CD to complete their recertification, but some have asked for a more traditional class, and this is the 2nd year for the one-day recertification workshop.
 
The class covered workplace safety, chlorine safety, confined spaces, proper reporting and sampling, cross connections, emergency preparedness, source water protection, and math.  The operators in attendance were from either schools or industry, it was an interesting mix.
 
What was great about the class, was that Wayne has 30+ years of experience operating water systems and assisting water and wastewater operators, so he had a real life example of what can go wrong for every piece of the class.  It really hits home when you realize how many things are taken for granted, and how many operators get in a hurry and say, "I'll just take this short cut once", and its the last thing they do.
 
 
More To Come
Wayne handed out the complete set of slides and notes to the class and he's given me the ok to share some of it with you, so in the next couple of weeks, look for some really interesting and common sense tips, as well as some examples of what can happen if you aren't informed and prepared.  As Wayne said, you can't make this stuff up, the truth is stranger than fiction sometimes.
 
 
If anyone is interested in a copy of the Operator Basics CD, email us and we can send you a copy free of charge.
02
Are You Attending The NRWA WaterPro Conference?
If you are going to WaterPro in New Orleans, the National Rural Water Association is offering a Free Webinar to attendees meant to help you prepare for the conference and "maximize your WaterPro experience".  The webinar is going to be on Aug 18 at 1:30pm.  Details and the registration can be found by clicking here.
 
 
We Will Be There Too!
Stop by the Technical Assistance Center's booth at WaterPro for information about the SmallWaterSupply.org website, as well as information about what the other 7 Technical Assistance Centers have to offer.  All of the information is free, and there are alot of helpful reports, factsheets, and CD's that will be available for operators.
28
The National Rural Water Association (NRWA) is currently America’s Largest Utility Membership, serving over 26,696 Water and Wastewater utilities across U.S., through their state affiliate associations. NRWA is a great primary source of information for water and wastewater operators across the country.
 
 State Affiliates
 
Although membership includes utilities of all sizes, the NRWA primarily service populations of 10,000 or less. Their members comprise 94% of the public water systems in the United States. NRWA currently has 48 different state affiliates.
 
Rural Water Associations train over 100,000 operators, managers and community leaders  annually. Ultimately, technical assistance and Rural Water training are credited as the “backbone” of compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act. Rural water Associations provide technical expertise to utilities each state association has; the expertise to go onsite and assist utilities in all areas of operation, management, finance, and governance. Many of these services are provided free of charge to small utilities through funding from the USDA Rural Utilities Services, the Farm Service Agency and Congressional Appropriations to Rural Water through the Environmental Protection Agency.
 
In addition to technical assistance and rural water training, Rural Water State Affiliates serve as a "First Responder," whether the emergency is local, regional or statewide. Their skills and knowledge have been helpful in all types of emergency situations from occasional flooding and tornadoes, to Hurricane Katrina.
 
Practical Rural Water Assistance
 
Rural Water State affiliates, such as the Colorado Rural Water Association, have taken their assistance efforts on the road, so to speak. The CRWA (http://www.crwa.net/) now offers a Mobile Training Unit that provides onsite training at your location, based on your system’s training needs. Not only are most of these training classes free, but the Mobile Training Unit offers a variety of training courses such as , Laboratory Training, Computer Training and even Classroom style Training. Most of the state associations have one-on-one or mobile training and support services. Check out your state associations webpage to find out more.  
 
We at SmallWaterSupply.org work hard to keep our document database and event search, up-to-date with useful organizations such as the National Rural Water Association, check us out.
Posted in: TA Providers, RWAs
13

Email = Information

If you have an email address, then you can get access to many sources of information.  Most national organizations, like the National Rural Water Association and the American Water Works Association, have weekly email updates that are a newsletter of sorts for keeping you up to date with current events, new technology, ideas, and other things. 

How Do I Sign Up?

The AWWA sends these updates to their members, but for other organizations, they have a place for you to subscribe on their webpage.  You simply go to their page and type in your email address. They will send you a confimation email that you follow, and then you will get an email on some regular interval, typically once a week.

Other Types of Information

Some states and state organizations have started providing updates by using these same services.  In these cases, they are usually to announce a new program or an update to the information they provide on the web.   For instance, you can sign up at the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality website to receive notification of any updates to their webpage and programs. This can prove really valuable if you are an Idaho water or wastewater operator.  The Minnesota Department of Health sends out information on grants and loans, as well as rules and guidance, and they have several quarterly newsletters that you can subscribe to.  All of these services mean that you don't have to go look for the latest information, they send new information directly to you, you just have to sign up.

Other organizations that provide these services include The Missouri Rural Water Association, the Michigan Water Environment Association, USEPA, National Rural Water Association, Rural Community Assistance Partnership, Water Environment Research Foundation, and the Water Resources Education Network.  There are many others, probably some in your state. Please send me others that you know of, I'll be sure to include them in a later post.

Our Blog Posts Via Email

Of course, you can also get our blog posts emailed to you by signing up on our webpage.  See the "Getting Blog Posts by Email" article under the Featured Posts section on our blog page (or click on the link!).

14

The Source Water Collaborative is a coalition of 23 organizations who share a common vision for protecting the lakes, rivers, and aquifers that provide drinking water to all Americans.  These organizations include many of the groups that we regularly talk about here at SmallWaterSupply.org, that work with or on behalf of water supplies.  For instance, the National Rural Water Association, the American Water Works Association, the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators, the National Environmental Services Center, the US EPA, the Environmental Finance Center Network, and the Rural Community Assistance Partnership are all member organizations.  The Collaborative is an effort to better coordinate and give citizens and communities someplace to go to find out information about protecting their sourcewater.

New Custom Brochure

At www.yourwateryourdecision.org, there is a program that you can use to create a custom brochure about source water protection.  The goal being to get local policy makers involved in your source water protection issues.  There are a series of steps to run through that allow you to add contacts and state specific information, and then an opportunity to add in your own local information to create a brochure that is custom and specific for your needs.

Where It Can Be Useful

If the source of your water supply is shared by more than one user, for instance a large regional aquifer or a surface water source that provides water to more than one water supply, then this brochure is one tool you can use to create awareness among all of the users you share your water source with.  If you have a local issue, or there is a regional issue that might affect a group of water supplies from the same source, this brochure is an inexpensive, to-the-point way to get information out to those that need to get involved and have a better understanding of source water protection.

What SmallWaterSupply.org Can Do To Help

The only expense for you is printing the brochure. If that is a concern, we might be able to help.  If you are a water supply serving under 3300 people and would like to get copies of your brochure printed, just email it to us and we will print 100 copies for you.  We believe the Collaborative web page is a great resource for anyone interested in protecting their water supply and we are glad to help support their efforts. 

25
The NRWA and its State Affiliates are holding a webinar on Tuesday February 2nd to present an overview of the new security legislation that has been passed by the US House of Representatives.
 
The webinar is entitled, " Potential Water Sector Security Regulations and Gaseous Chlorine."  It will be from 12:30 to 1:00pm eastern time.  If you are a State Rural Water Association member, and have an email address, you should receive an email about this, probably today.  Just follow the link at the bottom to register.
 
Reasons To Join In
1. They will be going over new requirements for water supplies: new vulnerability assessments, emergency response plans, site security plans, and site risk assessment information.
 
2.  You will have a chance to ask questions at the end, if there are things you don't understand or need more clarification.
 
3.  It's a chance to learn how to sign up and be a part of a webinar.  Many of us have never participated in something like a webinar, and its easy to say its more trouble than its worth.  But, you'll find that its really not that tough to set up, you just need to register, and then when the time comes you just have to log in.  If you would like some help, let us know, we can help walk you through it.
 
General Information
The procedure is really simple.  You click on the link at the bottom of the email, it takes you to an NRWA webpage that asks you to register (name, email, state, phone).  When you click on "register", you will get a confirmation email with instructions for joining the webinar.  The webinar itself will be viewed as a webpage.  For the audio portion of the broadcast, and you can either use speakers/headphones plugged into your computer or you can call in and listen over the phone.
 
This is why you belong to your state association, so you can keep informed.  They are looking out for your interests and have the staff and where-with-all to keep up on important issues in DC.
 
But I Don't Have Email
Do you have internet access?  If so, getting an email account is really easy.  Sites like Google, Yahoo, and MSN all provide ways to set up email accounts.  We suggest using Google's gmail, because it provides you access to so many other things (Google Documemts, You Tube, Google Calendar (that can be sync'd to your Outlook Calendar)). 
 
If you would like, we will even set up an account for you, or walk you through the steps to create one, while on the phone.  It won't help you for the webinar next week, but it will give you access to a lot of new information.
 
Email Alerts
NRWA, as well as some state affiliates, have a weekly or monthly email newsletter with current events, state news, and information on important issues.  Other TA providers, like WEF, AWWA, NESC, and RCAP, and even state and federal agencies, have email sign ups that will automatically send you an email when there is new information available.  Its a good way to keep up with things.  Even if you don't use it regularly, email opens the door for more communication, between operators and their state association, operators and their state regulators, or even between operators.  Email laters are certainly worth checking out.  If, for whatever reason, you don't like them, you can ignore them or have them stopped.
 
18
Restructuring, consolidation, and sustainability aren't anything new.  Recently though, there has been more talk about these issues as the industry begins to focus more efforts on small systems and increasing overall compliance rates for public water supplies.  
 
Sustainability
Sustainability is the hot buzz word these days, but what does it mean?  It's much more than being able to run your water supply in the black.  It means developing a business plan for the long term, planning now for the large infrastructure upgrade you will need in 25 years, being prepared for changes in the rules or when an emergency arises, and making plans for staffing and knowledge retention, should you leave or retire.  It means a lot of work, but for those who practice it, they will tell you it's rewarding work and knowing you are taking care of your future is a great feeling.
 
Sounds Like A Lot Of Gloom And Doom
When you are already frustrated at the expectations put on you to maintain a water supply, talk of sustainability seems like it must be for someone else.  Not so. No matter how big or small your system is, there are things you can do to improve sustainability.  And if you only implement one change, that's still progress that you can see and measure.  If you are part of a homeowners association, it could be finding that neighbor who cares enough to learn what you do, so there is someone to back you up when needed.  For a small community supply, maybe it's developing relationships with customers and your town board, and educating them on what's needed to ensure the system is viable in 20 years.  In all of these cases, being informed yourself helps a lot, and enlisting the help of local TA providers to support your efforts is key.
 
Ask For Support
There are a number of TA providers who can work with you to understand what it will take to start down this road.  If you are a member of an operators association, start there.  If not, talk to your state regulatory people about other TA providers that can assist you.  Rural water associations, RCAP affiliates, AWWA affiliates, EFC's, TAC's, NESC, and others, are all interested in supporting your efforts to maintain and develop your water supplies.  You can also contact us, and we will find someone local to help you.
 
There Are Some Good Materials Available
I searched our documents database, using the word "consolidation" in the keyword search and here are the most relevant ones that you should take a look at:
 
1. KRWA article that is a must read, with state examples 4 pages
2. Great Report from SE-TAC on Pros, Cons, Options, Considerations 24 pages
7. The Technical Paper that #3 is based on 35 pages
 
  
Lastly, there is an interesting marketing report from 2003 that really does a great job of summarizing the issues raised about small supplies infrastructure needs, what the cost will be nationally over the next 20 years, and what the USEPA was discussing about sustainability of water supplies in 2003.  One thing it points out is that 86% of small supplies are within 5 miles of another supply and that by itself suggests that small systems have an opportunity to develop agreements to share resources.  At a minimum, this will help small supplies achieve the economies of scale that will support their being sustainable.
16
Today's blog post is a review of the New York Rural Water Association's management/board member training video, "Is the Water Rising?".  It examines New York's water and wastewater supplies and the turmoil facing the water operator industry. Retirement, pricing, and strict operator education and experience requirements are just a few issues that must be dealt with in order to ensure a future for system operators, and community supplies as a whole. This DVD takes a comprehensive look at the changes that are occuring, and offers helpful asset management strategies to combat the ongoing trend of losing qualified operators.
 
Holding onto operators has become difficult for communities, as water professionals are being lost to private utilities and retirement. This DVD recognizes the costs and demanding training required for operators, but points out that a well trained operator and a smoothly run utility is more cost effective in the long run. It also provides insightful interviews with New York system operators and managers that give a better understanding of the problems and issues.
 
This DVD offers the idea that water and wastewater supplies should be run more like the businesses that they really are. Improvement ideas include more realistic strategies, proper staffing, equipment maintenance, reserve funds, and proper production. It explains that public education is vital; proper staff compensation and recruitment can, and must, be achieved; rate setting should be accurate and fair; and facility maintenance must be performed in a timely fashion.
 
Bottom line - This training video is a helpful tool for any water supply dealing with asset management, capacity development, or operator/workforce issues.
 
For more info:
 
To view the video: