National Rural Water Association
2915 S. 13th Street
Duncan, OK 73533
580-252-0629 FAX 580-255-4476
Chris Wilson, email@example.com
September 18, 2008
Rural water staff restoring power to
MAURICEVILLE, Texas – With rain from Ike still pouring down,
emergency staff from the Texas
Rural Water Association rolled out of their staging area in
Mauriceville, Texas, bringing portable generators and emergency
supplies to the small systems in the storm’s path.
One of the first systems to restore water service was Raywood, a
small utility that serves about 500 customers. The Raywood Water
Service Corporation lost power around 1 a.m. as the hurricane made
landfall Sunday. The water stored in the water tower kept the system
pressurized for a few more hours. When the water ran out, the system
called TRWA for assistance.
“I got the call at about 6 a.m.,” said Larry Bell, TRWA’s Director
of Technical Assistance. “I had the generator there, up and running,
before 3 p.m..”
Raywood had power restored eight hours after calling for help.
Staff deployed through the impacted area, responding to calls for
assistance or according to plans made before impact. TRWA water
technicians contacted systems in Ike’s path to get information of
the system’s potential needs and contact information. Responses were
teams organized before the post-disaster chaos.
How many of the systems benefited from the advanced planning?
“All of them,” said Michael Vollmar, TRWA Director of Training and
“I think it just helps people, knowing someone cares,” he added.
Vollmar coordinated and organized the TRWA response, matching
available generators with the load needs of systems, organizing
supplies of fuel, parts and cable, and deploying staff for follow-up
or technical assistance.
As TRWA emergency responders deployed to deliver generators and
other supplies, staff made on site-contact with utility operators to
assess their needs. Rural water circuit riders, roving assistance
specialists, and wastewater technicians that work with these
operators year-round were able to quickly assess each system’s needs
and coordinate the association’s limited assets to the utilities.
“We’re getting more requests than we have generators to fill,”
TRWA started rotating generators between systems with water towers,
or elevated storage, allowing multiple systems to maintain pressure
without a constant power supply. TRWA is also coordinating with
members of their Rural Water Emergency Assistance Cooperative, an
agreement between rural systems to share equipment, staff and
supplies during emergencies. RWEAC members who were unaffected, or
have regained normal operations, are providing equipment and
personnel to utilities in impacted areas.
“Our cooperative members are a real blessing,” said Tommy Duck, TRWA
Executive Director. “We can send them into areas near the edge of
the impact zone, and often their response is more timely and
efficient than what we can supply from our staging area.”
Larger cooperative agreements are also supplying additional
equipment and personnel for TRWA. The Florida Rural Water
Association dispatched an experienced hurricane response team with a
supply of portable generators and the National Rural Water
Association sent a team of support staff. These teams are focused on
providing emergency power, but other state associations have teams
of rural water professionals on stand-by to provide technical
assistance once power is restored.
“When you see these trees uprooted, you might be looking at a broken
line,” explained William White, a TRWA Circuit Rider. He explained
that disaster clean-up can be just as damaging as the storm,
breaking pipes and hydrants with heavy equipment.
“During Rita, most of the damage was to our distribution system, we
had hundreds of leaks,” explained Jeff Holland, manager of the
Mauriceville Special Utility District. “It can be very disheartening
to work so many hours and feel like you’re not making progress.”
Luckily this year his Mauriceville’s operation has been “business as
Some operators were forced to shut down their systems and
evacuation, only returning to their utilities on Tuesday.
“It’s going to be weeks for some areas,” Duck said.
Some systems are still blocked by flood water and may take several
more days before professionals can make a preliminary assessment.
“Right now the game wardens are using airboats to move into some
areas along the coast,” White explained. “They say some most of the
systems look intact, but they’re underwater.”
TRWA’s response will continue long after the emergency response has
“This is what we do,” Duck said. “We’re here, in the rural systems,
making sure people have water.”