WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Rural Water Association opened the 2020 Rural Water Rally with approximately 280 rural water professionals in attendance on February 4 in Washington, D.C.
VIP speakers Senator Roy Blunt from Missouri and DJ LaVoy, Deputy Undersecretary for USDA Rural Development, spoke to Rural Water Rally attendees.
Blunt expounded on the importance of small water systems and how imperative it is for them to keep up with regulations and advances within the industry, while still being affordable for their rural customers. He said the programs Rural Water has developed and promoted have a huge impact on how successful our industry is.
“[Water and wastewater technicians] represent the kinds of communities, the kinds of neighborhoods where people want to be connected,” Blunt said. “[Water and wastewater technicians] are part of the most basic connection of all.”
Blunt praised water and wastewater technicians from across the country for the thankless work they do. He wanted them to know that their hard work is very important to Rural America’s livelihood and does not go unnoticed.
“The people of Rural Development are dedicated and enthusiastic about our industry,” said DJ LaVoy, Deputy Undersecretary for Rural Development. “They understand one of the four things that is important to us is Rural Water.”
Lavoy said the work of water and wastewater technicians and associations is imperative to the success of our industry. Both speakers were thoroughly impressed with what our association and Rural Water employees have accomplished over the years and knows the best is yet to come.
“Our partnerships and programs aren’t going anywhere,” LaVoy said. “We want to grow our relationship with you.”
He said that the NRWA has their full support and is looking forward to the future. Blunt and LaVoy talked about where the water industry started and how much it has grown and improved since clean, safe drinking water became a big priority in Rural America.
“We are so proud to be part of the patriots and leaders that [water and wastewater technicians] are,” Lavoy said. “When Rural America thrives, all of America thrives.”
LaVoy and Blunt understand that none of this progress would have been possible without the programs put in place and funded by the federal government.
“The programs that have been put in place in the last few years deserve priority support,” Blunt said.
LaVoy explained the disconnect between the general public and the water and wastewater industry. Most people do not understand what goes into making clean, affordable drinking water in Rural America.
“The small towns, that’s what we are all about,” LaVoy said.
The water and wastewater workforce are a specific group of people dedicated to ingenuity and providing safe, clean drinking water to Rural America. Without these technicians, many jobs and activities in America would not be possible.
“We have to make sure our water is safe and functioning,” Lavoy said. “Our circuit riders maintain that water supply.”
Blunt talked about how the NRWA Apprenticeship Program will be a very important movement to incorporate veterans and other diverse employment opportunities into our industry.
“We need to do a better job creating these alternatives,” Blunt said. “We have a great story about what [water and wastewater technicians] do and why it matters.”
“Half of your workforce will be retiring in the next decade,” Blunt said.
The water and wastewater industry is aging rapidly, and the NRWA Apprenticeship Program was created to recruit new professionals to lead the industry. With new technologies and standards being put into place, the water and wastewater industry will require more training. This program has been tailored to new or emerging professionals in the industry who do not possess the wealth of knowledge current professionals near the age of retirement hold. The program will help initiate the next generation into the profession and help them to be successful.
“When disaster strikes it is [water and wastewater technicians] and our first responders who make sure we have a viable water source and keeps our lives functioning the way they are supposed to be,” LaVoy said.
The opening session also included remarks from NRWA President Kent Watson of Illinois; NRWA Chair of the Legislative Committee John O’Connell; Bill Simpson, Mike Keegan, Michael Preston and Keith Heard of the NRWA DC Staff; NRWA Deputy CEO Matt Holmes; and NRWA CEO Sam Wade.