Fletcher Named 2018 NRWA Man of the Year

FORT Worth, Texas – Steve Fletcher was named the National Rural Water Association’s Man of the Year during the annual Tribute to Excellence awards ceremony, held on Sept. 18 at the WaterPro Conference in Fort Worth, Texas.

“The Man of the Year award is presented to an individual or an organization that have gone “above and beyond” the normal scope of activities and support for Rural Water across America based on their loyalty, dedication and outstanding contributions to the Rural Water cause,” said Ed Savage, chair of the NRWA Awards Committee.

Fletcher has served as president of the NRWA board since 2016. He has been the manager and operator of the Washington County Water Company since 1981, a system that serves 5,800 customers in seven counties across southern Illinois. He’s been a member of the Illinois Rural Water Association since 1986 and was elected as the state director to the NRWA board in 1999 and the NRWA executive board in 2008.

Atwood and Harris, Retiring NRWA Staff, Honored as Rural Water Stars

FORT WORTH, Texas – The National Rural Water Association honored two retiring staff members after years of service to Rural Water. Claudette Atwood and Michael Harris both received the Rural Water Star award at the annual Tribute to Excellence awards ceremony, held on Sept. 18 at the WaterPro Conference in Fort Worth, Texas.

“The Rural Water Star award is presented to those who have gone ‘above and beyond’ the normal scope of activities and support for Rural Water across America based on their loyalty, dedication and outstanding contributions to the Rural Water cause,” said Ed Savage, chair of the NRWA Awards Committee.

Attwood joined NRWA as Chief Financial Officer in 1988. She graduated from Panhandle State University in 1975 followed by an accounting degree from Cameron University in 1987.

Harris joined NRWA as Marketing Director in 1994. He graduated from Oklahoma University in 1972 and received his fine art masters from the University of Tennessee – Nashville in 1975.  He was an art professor for three years and president of his own advertising agency until 1986.

Missouri Wins Association of the Year at Annual NRWA Awards; Kentucky, Ohio, South Dakota, Oklahoma and Wisconsin Earn Awards

FORT WORTH, Texas – The Missouri Rural Water Association received the State Association of the Year award at the annual Tribute to Excellence awards ceremony, held on Sept. 18 at the WaterPro Conference in Fort Worth, Texas.

“The most prestigious and most honored award is the State Association of the Year,” said Ed Savage, chair of the NRWA Awards Committee. “It is presented to the state association that projects a team effort in all areas of professional association operations and membership service.  The State Association of the Year has excelled in all categories of the award and this is only accomplished by teamwork, strong leadership and member support.”

“For years, this association has been well-respected for the high-quality training, services, publications and advocacy they provide their members. With an active membership providing water and wastewater to hundreds-of-thousands of customers, this state offers leadership, resources and programs that benefit their members.”

The South Dakota Association of Rural Water Systems won the award for Outstanding Achievement in Communications, Publications and Public Relations.

“Rural Water pride runs deep in their state,” Savage said. “This association does excellent, meaningful work and are getting the word out about it.  They work constantly on cultivating a positive relationship with the public through their consumer magazine, their children’s water festival and many other ways of promoting rural water.”

The Kentucky Rural Water Association earned the award for Outstanding Achievement in Legislative Initiatives.

“Kentucky made a commitment to provide a strong, unified voice for their members. They work year-round as the advocate for rural system needs,” Savage said. “They have developed strong relationships with their state’s congressional delegation, and never miss an opportunity to interact with them and their staff. During their legislative session they publish a weekly newsletter, sent to all utility members, keeping them abreast of current legislative issues.”

The Ohio Rural Water Association won the award for Outstanding Achievement in Technical Assistance.

“New legislation in Ohio requires every public water system in the state to develop an Asset Management Program that includes an inventory of all their assets, a map of those assets, an assessment of their current condition and criticality were they to fail, and a capital improvement plan to repair or replace the assets,” Savage said. “Ohio Rural Water has created an Asset Management Plan template with over 100 pages of detailed content to provide to small and rural systems and has educated its staff to enable them to guide utilities through the entire process.”

The Wisconsin Rural Water Association received the Outstanding Achievement in Training award.

“Wisconsin prides itself as the foremost training entity in their state. State primacy often comes to them to train its employees and operators in proper regulations and compliance issues,” Savage said. “In 2017, Wisconsin conducted 202 classes in 50 different subjects in 103 locations around the state.  A total of 5009 operators attended these classes.”

The Oklahoma Rural Water Association won the award for Outstanding Achievement in Member Services.

“Oklahoma’s member service efforts focus on building strong relationships and strengthening the water and wastewater industries by providing networking and learning opportunities for members, as well as services such as an Insurance Corporation, a short-term loan program, a scholarship program for rural students and many other member services,” Savage said.

Winners were selected from states that applied for consideration. Submissions were independently rated by each individual committee member with the name and location of the state redacted to make the scoring anonymous.

The NRWA Awards Committee includes Savage, Nevada; Phillip Combs, Tennessee; Bruce Bottomley, New Hampshire; Tom Delbridge, Virginia; Paul Fulgham, Uath; and John Sasur, Massachusetts.

Jamie Hope of Florida and Chris Groh of Wisconsin Win “Are You Smarter Than a Circuit Rider?”

FORT WORTH, Texas. – Jamie Hope from the Florida Rural Water Association won first place and Chris Groh from the Wisconsin Rural Water Association won second place at the Are You Smarter Than a Circuit Rider? competition, held Sept. 17 at part of the WaterPro Conference in Fort Worth, Texas.

Hope won a $7,000 gift card from Core & Main for the Florida Rural Water Association and Groh won a $3,000 gift card for the Wisconsin Rural Water Association.

The 2016 conference debuted the new Are You Smarter Than a Circuit Rider? gameshow, where conference attendees partnered with randomly-drawn Rural Water staff to answer questions about drinking water, wastewater, regulations, utility management and the water industry. The contest drew an energetic crowd that filled the seating area and spilled into standing room around the edges. Are You Smarter Than a Circuit Rider? has received a 100% score in WaterPro app every year, with all respondents indicating that watching the show was time well spent and that they would like to see the event at future conferences.

The National Rural Water Association Opens the 2018 WaterPro Conference

FORT WORTH, Texas – The National Rural Water Association opened the 2018 WaterPro Conference with a morning session on Sept. 17 in Fort Worth, Texas. The opening included speeches from NRWA President Steve Fletcher, Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development at the United States Department of Agriculture Anne Hazlett, and NRWA CEO Sam Wade.

President Fletcher highlighted NRWA’s accomplishments during his two-year term, including a campaign to restore USDA funding after it was zeroed in the President’s budget and the launch of the new NRWA Apprenticeship Program.

Hazlett discussed the USDA’s commitment to providing infrastructure to rural communities and to streamlining the processes for utilities to access USDA funding. She also praised Rural Water’s emergency response efforts, which include responses to past Hurricanes like Irma, Maria and Harvey, and the current response to Hurricane Florence.

Wade praised the attendees, because the everyday efforts of utility professionals are what makes Rural Water successful.

“You are the engine of success for rural water,” he said.

WaterPro is the annual conference of the National Rural Water Association and is designed to bring together water and wastewater utility systems – large and small, municipal and rural – for sessions in operations, management, boardsmanship and governance.

Rural Water Prepares for Hurricane Impact along the Southeastern US

In preparation of Hurricane Florence’s landfall, National Rural Water Association (NRWA) and its State Associations stand ready to assist with water and wastewater systems’ emergency needs.

Hurricane Florence is predicted to be the most powerful storm to hit the Carolinas in three decades that will bring high winds, heavy rainfall and massive flooding.

“If the storm track of Hurricane Florence continues as predicted, significant damage to rural communities could occur,” Sam Wade, NRWA CEO stated. “Water and wastewater operations specialists, circuit riders and other experienced professionals are prepared to work diligently and safely to restore systems that provide reliable water resources to Rural America.”

NRWA and its State Associations annually train for disasters like Hurricane Florence. NRWA has focused on improving Rural Water’s emergency response capabilities since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. This training has focused on all aspects of emergency preparedness, from planning and management, to loading and unloading heavy equipment, to connecting emergency generators.

The State Associations will utilize this educational training and previous experience to develop detailed plans and assess potentially impacted areas and systems. Emergency Response teams have already begun preparations by coordinating personnel, equipment and supplies as the storm approaches.

NRWA and State Associations have helped with disaster recovery and relief every time the need has arisen. Last year hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria brought widespread destruction to the Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Rural Water Associations received high praise for its quick response and ability to provide emergency assistance.

NRWA is still working with its States Associations and federal agencies for continued efforts in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to provide ongoing support and long-term planning.

National and State Rural Water Associations have established an emergency response network where states impacted by disasters can rely on other State Associations to provide emergency response assistance in the form of manpower and equipment.

State Rural Water Associations have developed mutual aid agreements with multiple agencies and industry partners to facilitate the network of “utilities helping utilities” in responding to and recovering from emergencies.

More about mutual aid: https://www.epa.gov/waterutilityresponse/mutual-aid-and-assistance-drinking-water-and-wastewater-utilities

Projections of Florence Landfall

National Rural Water Celebrates Dedicated Water Professionals on Labor Day

Today is Labor Day, the national holiday that celebrates the accomplishments of the American worker and traditionally marks the end of summer. While most Americans will enjoy a day off – schools, banks and government offices will be closed – the men and women dedicated to providing their communities with clean drinking water and environmentally-responsible wastewater treatment will still be on-call to serve the needs of their friends and neighbors.

The infrastructure that supplies clean, affordable drinking water to our communities operates 24 hours a day, including nights, weekends and holidays. In small utilities, workers are on-call at any time. Medium sized utilities may have plants that operate continuously and require shift workers to supervise them around-the-clock. At any utility, line breaks, storm damage, equipment failures or other emergencies will mean that workers from affected utilities, neighboring communities and State Rural Water Associations will be called from their barbecues and family outings to help restore drinking water.

It takes more than 380,000 highly skilled water and wastewater personnel to ensure the public supply of safe drinking water and to protect our lakes, streams and groundwater. More than 80% of the U.S. population receives potable water from public drinking water systems, and about 75% of the U.S. population has sewage treated by centralized wastewater systems. More than 97% of the nation’s 156,000 public water systems are small systems, meaning they serve 10,000 or fewer people.

This dedicated workforce requires increasingly-skilled professionals to deal with advancing technology in supply and treatment. This need is complicated by the fact that the water sector is expected to lose between 30 – 50% of employees due to retirement over the next decade. To meet this need, the National Rural Water Association and it state affiliates are leading the development of the NRWA Apprenticeship Program to train new water and wastewater professionals. This program will help train the next generation of water professionals, skilled in the latest technology and committed to providing safe, clean water to their communities.

When you are celebrating this Labor Day, please just us in celebrating the men and women that help provide clean drinking water and environmentally-responsible wastewater treatment to communities across the nation.

Kentucky Rural Water and Neighboring Systems Assist Community When Source Runs Dry

WHEELWRIGHT, Ken. – When the City of Wheelwright’s water source ran dry, experts from the Kentucky Rural Water Association and crews from neighboring communities rallied to connect to a new source and restore service.

“I was in a classroom, teaching when a student said: ‘Have you seen what’s happening in Wheelwright?’” Said Danny Stinson, a KRWA Circuit Rider. Circuit Riders are roving water experts that provide training and technical assistance throughout their state.

Wheelwright uses an abandoned coal mine as their water source.

“Almost all subterranean mines require some form of dewatering,” explained KRWA Circuit Rider Tim Blanton. “Generally speaking, they’re just as good a water source as a well.”

The mine that supplied Wheelwright, though, was running dry during a substantial drought. The system was also suffering from considerable water loss that was draining the limited water supplies. Stinson traveled to Wheelwright to start working on repairing leaks and reducing demand while Blanton helped switch to a reserve water source. KRWA also supplied emergency drinking water for the community while the water source was down.

“The town had bought some bottled water and Kentucky Rural Water sent over a few pallets of emergency drinking water,” said Wesley Little, the Wheelwright Water System Operations Specialist.

Stinson began examining the system plan his approach to leak detection.

“I started thinking about how the system was set up and where the highest pressures were,” Stinson said. “We started at the bottom and started working our way up.”

Because the Wheelwright system relied on the mountains to gravity feed the system, the pipes with the highest pressure had the greatest chance for high-volume leaks. Stinson started working on finding leaks while crews from the neighboring Southern Water and Sewer District worked to make repairs.

“We found five leaks that totaled over 60 gallons per minute,” Stinson said. “That doesn’t sound like much, but for a system where the overall demand is 35 gallons per minute, that’s substantial.”

Blanton worked with a contractor that was working to reverse the flow at a pressure reducing station that would allow Wheelwright to draw additional water through a connection to Southern Water and Sewer and Knott County Water and Sewer.

“Knott County is a large regional supplier,” Blanton explained. “They were already set up as a supplier for a subsection of Southern Water and Sewer, and with changes to the station they could supply additional water to Wheelwright.”

Many of the connections were in place but had never been used.

“The station was put in place in the 90s but it had never been used,” Little said.

Blanton and the contractors worked to reverse the pumps in the station while inspecting and cleaning the pumps, filters and flow management equipment.

“We had to go through everything because that station had never been put into service,” he said.

The combined effort restored water to Wheelwright and helped give the system an alternative water source in case of future emergencies.

“They were extremely helpful,” Little said. “They put in a lot of time and effort helping us out.”

KRWA’s assistance hasn’t been limited to the emergency.

“I appreciate everything they do for us,” Little said. “Not just during this incident, but throughout the year.”

Rural Water and USDA Rural Development Collaborate to Create A Water Meter Specification That Helps Communities Upgrade Meters And Save Money

ELBOW LAKE, Minn. – With numerous rural communities struggling to make use of water meter upgrades, a Minnesota Rural Water Association expect had written a water meter specification that allows communities to save money and access the latest water meter technology.

“I noticed that cities were getting new meters paid for by Rural Development, but you’d come back a few months later and communities were not getting the most out of their meters,” explained Jeff Dale, a MRWA Circuit Rider. Circuit Riders are roving water utility experts that provide training and technical assistance to water utilities.

When communities were planning water system projects, they were encouraged to replace their older meters with new meters, especially those with Automated Metered Reading capability.

“In essence, a water meter is a cash register for the utility system,” explained Jim Hammer, the Rural Development Engineer for the state of Minnesota. “Helping a city to develop the tools it needs to have financially sustainable utility systems is a priority of RD. The revenue side of the financial equation begins with the ability to accurately and efficiently collect water usage data to generate utility bills for the customers.”

New meters have numerous advantages, often being more accurate and easier to read. Unfortunately, most of these communities don’t have the capability and infrastructure to make use of the new meters.

“An issue Jeff was seeing after a project was completed was that some cities were not utilizing the water meters from which to bill their customers,” Hammer said. “After asking questions, it became obvious that all the tools needed were not included with the water meters. There were shortcomings regarding the portable reading equipment, billing software, computer, printer, and overall training.”

Dale and Hammer began working on a specification that would allow communities to take advantage of the new meters. Their close working relationship and experience was an essential ingredient to creation of the specification.

“Minnesota Rural Water has worked very closely with the Rural Development staff in Minnesota for many years,” Hammer said. “Jeff and I probably talk about one or more projects at least once a week.”
Dale and Hammer consulted on what they could do to address this problem. They decided to draft a water meter specification that would be considered a “turnkey” specification that would include specifying the requirements needed to address the various shortcomings.

“There are a lot of companies that sell AMR, but very few turnkey solutions,” Dale said.

The specification was planned to be modest in scope and simple in design. Dale and Hammer began a months-long process of consulting and revision to draft a specification.

Dale contributed many years of experience in the operation and maintenance of water and wastewater systems. This includes what features should be in the design to help ensure the system is economical to operate and user friendly for the operations specialist, what improvements may be missing, over-sized, or unnecessary, what tools and equipment items are needed to properly operate and maintain a system, and what equipment components should be included in the schedule of short-live assets that need regular replacement.

Hammer brought his extensive background as a Professional Engineer employed at consulting engineering firms. He focused on the requirements that improvements be modest in size, design, and cost, and of having maximum open and free competition in the bidding process.

“The goal of RD funding is to ensure a project results in a Borrower having a project that results in an affordable and sustainable system,” Hammer said.

The result of the collaboration was a specification that was beneficial for both Rural Development and the communities seeking RD funding.

“The specification includes everything they need to generate a bill for their rate structure: computers, printers and training,” Dale said. “It gives the community all the tools to use their meters as they are intended.”

The meter specification has allowed several Minnesota communities to get the benefits of new, AMR meters without having to hire consultants.

“This saves money, but also puts ownership of the project back with the community,” Dale said.

Both Dale and Hammer highlight that the specification is an example of the benefits of a close working relationship with Rural Water and Rural Development.

SPECIAL REPORT: Rural Water Districts Lead in Sustainability Partnerships

The National Rural Water Association’s Advancement and Sustainability Institute recently conducted a blind survey to determine the prevalence and nature of partnerships in the water industry. The purpose of the survey was to provide an empirical foundation for discussions taking place within governmental entities at the state and national level.  This was a blind survey of water utilities with 3,073 respondents providing a 98% confidence factor.

The National Rural Water Association’s position regarding consolidation and partnerships is that the most effective and sustainable solutions are made by local decisions to address local concerns considering all options. These results provide a snapshot of the depth of cooperation between utilities to address sustainably and utility-specific concerns.

Respondents

Respondents governmental structures consisted of 68.43% municipal, 21.31% non-municipal such as districts, co-ops regional systems or special service districts and 10.25% privately owned. These responses immediately reveal that community water supplies, regardless of government structure, are engaged in mutual support of neighboring entities.

Shared Services

Respondents indicated that non-municipal systems are more-deeply involved in support partnerships, both providing aid to and receiving aid from their neighbors. This increase could be contributed to the smaller populations serviced and the larger areas of service provided by districts as opposed to a small community water system. This is reflected by 67% of non-municipal entities, such as districts and co-ops, responding they either receive or provide services to and from other entities as compared to 47% of municipals and 25% of privately owned entities.

Types of Services Provided or Received

The wholesale of water is the predominant shared service.  In districts with large service areas they may buy wholesale on one end of the system and sell to another entity on the opposite end.  These are typically long-term agreements to ensure continuity of service.

Emergency connections between systems is prevalent and a common safeguard where applicable.  This type of partnership provides a mutual benefit to both entities.

Contract operations and management options are elected by entities for various reasons and issues.  Issues resulting in these types of contract services are system specific.

Other types of services tend to be informal such as borrowing a piece of equipment or asking for some help to perform a task.  These informal agreements are relationship based between staffing of entities.  The data of this survey indicates this type of partnership is more pronounced in private entities.

Conclusion

The vast majority of community water supplies (54%) serve populations of less than 500. These systems are the essence of Rural America, they support the infrastructure that the nation depends on that has a direct impact on the nation’s economy. They support agriculture for food production, energy production and our natural resources as well as the general public traveling the highways and byways of our nation.

These responses document the efforts that local communities undertake to ensure their systems remain sustainable and provide a safe quality water supply to their customers. The local decisions of sharing services, consolidating with a neighbor or contracting out operations should not be forced or made lightly. The system, as a first step, should undergo a complete system evaluation from a third party who does not stand to benefit from their recommendations. In the medical field, there may be a variety of treatments for a condition, but the procedures selected must match the needs of each individual case. Similarly, the decisions on the operation of water and wastewater utilities should be tailored to meet the concerns of each individual case. State Rural Water Associations provide a comprehensive evaluation of affordability, operational revenues versus expense and liquidity ratios as a foundation to consider various options available. The options can range from a policy or operational change to contract services or consolidation to name a few.

These types of local decisions being made at the local level are also documented by the reduction in the EPA community water system inventory which has declined by 3,805 entities since the year 2000. Contact your State Rural Water Association to consider your sustainability options or visit www.nrwa.org

The Water Industry Advancement & Sustainability Institute is a 501(c)(3) established by the National Rural Water Association