NRWA Statement on Water Utility Sustainability

DUNCAN, Okla. – The National Rural Water Association fully supports continued education, training and technical assistance to enhance the sustainability of the nation’s water and wastewater utilities.

In recent months, some stakeholders with vested interests have called for additional federal regulatory authority to direct the consolidation and regionalization of public water utilities as the means to achieve sustainability. NRWA supports consideration of consolidation or regionalization as one of several options to enhance long-term sustainability, however, the decision to choose among the options must be made at the local level by the people who drink the water and pay for its service.

Water utilities, large and small, need to consider all available options and evaluate which options best fit current local conditions and future sustainability. Decisions that communities should continuously evaluate include modifications to operations, governance policies, revenues, future compliance, growth, expenses as well as regionalization, consolidation and other types of collaborative efforts or partnerships.

NRWA members are the leaders in promoting regionalization, mergers and various forms of partnerships when it is in the best interest of the local community. A recent survey of state rural water association board members’ utilities indicated that 47% of the 242 respondents provide services to other utilities, and 7% receive services from other utilities through some form of partnership. NRWA and its members offer the best tools and resources to evaluate various substantiality options including technical assistance, board training and workforce development. NRWA recently announced the creation of the Water Industry Advancement and Sustainability Institute that will further assist with the advancement and sustainability of water and wastewater utilities in their mission to serve the public.

We have found that the key ingredient in any successful type of partnership, merger or consolidation is local support and local control of the decision-making process. If communities are coerced to consolidate; one can almost guarantee future controversy. NRWA advocates for local governments to maintain authority to choose when to merge, consolidate or enter into a regional partnership for long-term sustainability and successful collaboration.