Borough Seeks Help from Rural Water After Equipment Failure Floods Water Plant

CARLISLE, Pa. – When an equipment failure flooded the Carlisle water plant, the borough sought help from the Pennsylvania Rural Water Association.

“Over 1.6 million gallons of water came down from the reservoir and filled the basement of the water plant destroying all the electrical components,” explained Dave Muzzy, a PRWA Circuit Rider.

A power loss created a mechanical failure that left a check valve open. That valve drained millions of gallons from one of the utility’s finished water tanks into the basement.

The borough used about 3 million gallons of water a day – demand that had to be replaced until the water plant could be repaired. Carlisle had interconnections with three different municipalities that, together, could replace about 2.25 million gallons per day.

“We ran a 2,000-foot line over ground to another water system that could supply an additional 750,000 gallons per day,” Muzzy said.

Muzzy and employees from Carlisle and surrounding communities ran a six-inch hose from fire hydrant to fire hydrant to establish a connection with Pennsylvania American Water. Many of the employees assisting Carlisle came in from vacations they took for the beginning of hunting season. The community also received emergency turbidity meters from the state primacy agency and spare parts from nearby communities.

“When it comes down to it, these communities are there for each other,” Muzzy explained. “Everyone really came together.”

The utility still needed water to regenerate the system.

“Everything had to be disinfected as if we were starting from scratch,” Muzzy said.

Local milk carriers hauled 200,000 gallons of water over 40 miles to refill the water plant’s filters and disinfect the system.

“I don’t know about other states, but in Pennsylvania using milk trucks to haul water is a last resort,” Muzzy explained. “We got permission from the state to use the milk trucks and they hauled all the water we needed in less than two days.”

After about 50 hours of repairs, the system was producing water again, but the work was far from finished.  The utility had actuators and other electric components baked to remove the water and restore them to temporary service.

“The flood-damaged parts are starting to fail, but replacements have been arriving,” Muzzy said.

After replacement parts are installed, the utility will be operating near its full capacity again. After three months of repairs and replacements, seven of the utility’s eight filters are back in operation.

NRWA statement on the President’s elimination of USDA drinking water and wastewater infrastructure funding

The President’s budget eliminates the USDA water and waste loan and grant program, which has been the lifeline for rural water and small communities across Rural America. Instead, the Administration is placing its confidence with the EPA State Revolving Loan Funds. This demonstrates how blind the Administration is to its rural constituency and the lack of knowledge of what is most effective in funding the majority of the nation’s water and wastewater infrastructure.

There are approximately 52,000 community water supplies in the nation, of which 92% serve less than 10,000 population.  In 2016, USDA Rural Utilities Service dedicated their funding exclusively to Rural America – 85% of projects were for small communities, with populations of 5,000 or less.  The USDA Water and Environmental Program is a vital lifeline for rural residents funding the water infrastructure we rely on today.

We support the President’s call for increased investments to address aging and dilapidated infrastructure. However, this proposal guts the USDA infrastructure budget which has funded rural infrastructure for the past 70 years. USDA has the only water infrastructure programs specifically targeted to rural populations.

Private financing is not the solution and does not provide affordable terms for rural communities. Rural areas include lower-income, working class families with higher populations of retired residents and veterans on fixed incomes. This budget will not work for these rural Americans.

Shifting the federal portion of available financing to the EPA is unworkable, when data documents approximately 75% of SRF funding goes to systems serving over 10,000 population.

If the President is serious about assisting small and rural communities with infrastructure funding, he should utilize the USDA water programs that have a proven record in effectively and efficiently serving Rural America.

The National Rural Water Association is the largest water utility organization in the nation, with over 31,000 members. NRWA members provide safe and affordable water and wastewater services to over 34 million Americans in rural areas.

See NRWA President Steve Fletcher’s Testimony to the CEEC Subcommittee

DUNCAN, Okla. – Steve Fletcher, President of the National Rural Water Association, testified to the Commodity Exchanges, Energy, and Credit Subcommittee on March 9, 2017 on the Farm Bill and Rural Development Programs. NRWA has two recordings of President Fletcher’s testimony: a version edited to include only his testimony and related comments and the full livestream of the hearing.

See Fletcher’s remarks below:

See full hearing below:

Utility Turns to California Rural Water to Inform New Board and Manager

GREENVILLE, Calf. –  When the Indian Valley Community Services District found itself with a brand new five-member board and a new general manager, the small water and wastewater utility turned to the California Rural Water Association for assistance.

“None of the new board members had previously served on a water utility board,” explained Angela Wendele, a CRWA Circuit Rider. “They were looking for guidance to make their governance more effective and meaningful.”

She described the Sustainable Utility Management Workshop for Small and Rural Systems in detail to Chris Gallagher, the new Indian Valley general manager. Sustainable Utility Management supports rural water and wastewater systems in their mission to become more successful and resilient service providers. The program is built around ten key management areas that can help utility managers address many ongoing challenges.

After hearing the details of the program, the board scheduled a special workshop on Sustainable Utility Management.

“It was evident that this group of people were in attendance to learn as much as they could to better serve their community,” Wendele said.

After the workshop, the board requested additional material and arranged for a follow-up four weeks later.

“The material was well received,” Wendele said. “The board members all said the training and material provided were important to the community.”

Rural Water will continue to offer support and training to Indian Valley as needed to continue their progress.

A webinar covering Sustainable Utility Management is available inside the WaterPro Community.

Officials Set to Discuss Infrastructure Funding, Regulations, 1926(b), the Farm Bill and Cyber Security at Regional/Water District Issues Forum

DUNCAN, Okla. – Officials from several agencies are scheduled to discuss Infrastructure Funding, Regulations, 1926(b), the Farm Bill and Cyber Security at the 2017 Regional/Water District Issues Forum to be held April 11-12 in Washington D.C. The full schedule and registration information is available here.

Infrastructure funding discussions are scheduled to include: Kellie Kubena, Acting Assistant Administrator; Kent Evans, Director, Water Programs; and Scott Barringer, Deputy Assistant Administrator from the Rural Utilities Service; Dr. Andrew Sawyers, Director, EPA Office of Wastewater Management; Chris Shaffner, Co-Bank Vice President of Public Private Partnerships; and officials from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Fitz Elder, Senate Appropriations Committee Deputy Staff Director, is scheduled to discuss the Appropriations Outlook.

Kevin Baily, Professional Staff, Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry and Keith Heard, former Chief of Staff to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran are scheduled to discuss the next Farm Bill.

Jason Isakovic, Legislative Director for Representative Latta of Ohio is scheduled to discuss the Drinking Water Affordability Act

Cyber Security discussions are scheduled to include: Michael Marlow, Automaton Federation, Managing Director; Eric Goldstein, Department of Homeland Security; Adam Sedgewick, NIST; and Steve Mustard of the Automation Federation.

Several members of the NRWA staff and board will also be available to discuss the shifting political dynamics and the potential impact on the rural water and wastewater systems.

A report on last year’s forum is here.

GIS for Rural & Small Utilities Series

This webinar series will focus on providing the business value of using a Geographic Information System to manage a rural water system. This three-part series includes introduction to GIS fundamentals, data conversion methods, solutions for water, taking it to the field and back, plus resources to get you started.

Part 1: GIS 101 for Rural Water Systems: 2 pm CST April 13 Register Now
This webinar will discuss the fundamentals of GIS, including:
-What is a GIS?
-What resources do I need?
-How can it benefit my organization?

Part 2: Transforming Your Organization to a Digital World: 2 pm CST April 27 Register Now
This webinar will discuss the benefits gained by moving from paper to the digital ArcGIS platform, including:
-Data Collection and Management
-Basic Analysis
-Using solutions for water

Part 3: Going Mobile: Taking your GIS into the Field: 2 pm CST May 11 Register Now
This webinar will discuss field workflows enabled by mobile apps including:


Jason Channin is a Senior Solution Engineer for Esri’s Water Practice.  He joined Esri in 2003 as an Inside Sales Representative to support the Esri Denver Region.  He now serves as a Senior Solution Engineer as part of the Esri Water Practice, specializing in Esri solutions for water/wastewater/stormwater management. Channin has more than 17 years of GIS experience.     He earned a B.S. in geography in 2003 from the University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, CO.

David Totman is the Industry Manager of the Esri Global Water Practice providing thought leadership and market direction. Having been in the water industry for 36 years, he has been using GIS for nearly 30 of those years in business process optimization, project analytics, and infrastructure management.  Totman served as the Manager of Asset Management for Colorado Springs Utilities, one of the largest four-service municipally-owned utilities in the United States. He was educated in chemistry at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and received his Bachelor of Science in Geological Engineering from Arizona State University. Graduate work at ASU included a Research Assistantship with the College of Construction and thesis development in groundwater transportation methods. He has served on the Arizona Geographic Information Council and was a member of the Geospatial Information & Technology Association since its AM/FM International days.

NRWA Advances Profession with Industry Competency Model, Takes Steps Toward Apprenticeships

DUNCAN, Okla. – The National Rural Water Association recently collaborated with the Department of Labor and other water organizations to revise the Water and Wastewater Competency Model, a framework for describing the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in a given industry.

“NRWA representatives participated in a Department of Labor Energy Sector of Excellence in Apprenticeship meeting with partner industries and reviewed their Water and Wastewater Competency Model,” said Matthew Holmes, NRWA Deputy CEO. “They helped develop national guidelines for the workplace competencies and technical instruction necessary to prepare students to be successful, well-rounded professionals. For example, in addition to the attainment of specific industry-wide competencies, the ability to communicate with engineers and regulators was identified as a critical competency for water and wastewater operations specialists.”

The updates to the Model more accurately reflect the needs of small water and wastewater utilities. The new model will also provide a roadmap for developing the NRWA Workforce Advancement Center’s WaterPro Apprenticeship program.

“There’s a tremendous need to get younger people into the industry, particularly for small systems in rural areas,” Holmes said. “In addition to the general exodus of young people from rural areas, our industry is not viewed as a good career option. High school students are not aware of it. The opportunity to acquire a nationally-recognized apprenticeship credential has the potential to heighten that awareness.”

NRWA announced the Workforce Advancement Center and the apprenticeship program at a media event last November. The apprenticeship program will initially be tailored to water system operations specialists, wastewater system operations specialists, and water utility system customer service personnel.  In addition, the Advancement Center will develop career pathways into the water sector for high school students, establish industry training certifications, connect workers with employers through a job network, and serve as an online clearinghouse for resources.

“Our goal is to complete the water and wastewater operations specialist guideline standards and training curriculum by summer 2017,” Holmes said. “We hope to begin recruiting ‘earn and learn’ apprenticeship prospects by the end of 2017.”

NRWA Joins #RebuildRural Coalition Advocating for Investment in Rural Infrastructure

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Rural Water Association has joined #RebuildRural, a coalition of over 200 organizations from across the country encouraging President Donald J. Trump to prioritize rebuilding infrastructure in rural America.

“Those of us in rural communities have seen our infrastructure deteriorate, jeopardizing jobs, our agricultural competitiveness and the health of rural families,” the coalition wrote in a letter to the President. “Our deteriorating infrastructure threatens our leadership position.”

NRWA joined the effort as a way to bring greater support to its over 31,000 utility memberships, which supply drinking water and wastewater service in all 50 states. Rural Water has continually advocated for investment in the small water systems that supply clean, affordable drinking water to their communities, and the wastewater facilities that protect the public health and the environment.

Rural America is known to be the primary supplier of our nation’s food and energy stocks, but is also the primary source of the volunteers that serve in the U.S. Military. The rural communities that supply these invaluable resources cannot thrive without clean, reliable water and wastewater services, but their need is great.

“The scope of the investment needed is staggering,” the coalition letter said. “Clearly the federal government must continue to play an important role in providing funding and those federal investments should increase.”

USDA Rural Development has been the Federal Government’s best tool for assisting rural communities. This agency provided financial support to rural communities through loan, loan guarantee and grant programs that provide affordable financing for water and wastewater projects. Any federal investment in rebuilding rural infrastructure should include fully-funding this agency.

The letter then states that federal investment will likely be insufficient, and that creative solutions will be needed to make the necessary progress. The Rural Water industry has always embraced creative solutions and NRWA was founded to maximize the limited resources available to small utilities. Rural Water trains over 80,000 water professionals a year and makes over 55,000 on-site assistance visits, ensuring that every dollar spent by small utilities has the maximum benefit for their communities.

Rural Water stands ready to support these efforts to provide the best water and wastewater service in the world to rural families, rural business and rural communities.

West Virginia Rural Water Assists School for the Deaf and Blind After Water Break

Romney, W.V. – A massive line break in Romney, W.V. cut service to the West Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind in Romney, W.V., disrupting classes and forcing the students living on campus to relocate. The school contacted the West Virginia Rural Water Association for assistance.

“I contacted one of our Circuit Riders to provide emergency leak detection,” said WVRWA Executive Director Amy Swann. Circuit Riders are roving water professionals that provide on-site technical assistance to water and wastewater utilities.

Bertis McCarty rearranged his schedule to provide leak detection and other assistance. He met with Patrick McCord, Maintenance Supervisor for the school.

“We located the leak behind the cafeteria under a handicap ramp,” McCarty explained.

The leak was approximately seven feet below the surface and took nearly two days to uncover. Once the leak was repaired, the school and City of Romney started working to restore service. The city even donated some water pipe and fittings so that the school did not have to wait for delivery to begin repairs.

“Rick Davis, supervisor for the City of Romney was an invaluable part of the equation,” McCarty said.

Rural Water’s assistance saved the school roughly $3,000 per month in lost water but the benefits of the assistance went far beyond money saved.

“The costs to the facility and the community would be hard to measure in dollars,” McCarty said. “The students living on campus were displaced for seven days.”

Rural Water’s assistance ensured school could resume classes as quickly as possible.

“Needless to say, it was a very stressful situation for us,” the school’s superintendent, Dr. Martin Keller, Jr., said in a letter. “I wanted to personally thank Amy and Bertis as well as your association for your assistance.”

Aspen Pines, Wyo. Named Nation’s Best Tasting Water

WASHINGTON, D.C. – With a wide smile Mike Hoeft, a Water System Operations Specialist from Aspen Pines Water and Sewer District in Wyoming, walked to the stage and accepted the Gold Medal award for the Nation’s best-tasting water at the Great American Water Taste Test on Feb. 8. The Taste Test is held annually as part of the National Rural Water Association’s Rural Water Rally in Washington, D.C.

“I collected this sample myself,” Hoeft said. “We’ve won several taste tests and every time I was the one who collected the sample.”

Hoeft explained that the water has great taste because it requires no treatment. The water is drawn from a series of deep wells.

Moroe, Utah won the Silver Award and Franklin, Ken. earned the Bronze. The five finalists also included Steele, N.D. and Consolidated Baseyards Public Water System 258 from Wailuku, Hawaii, which won the first ever taste test hosted by the Hawaii Rural Water Association.

The five finalists were selected from a field of 39 water samples submitted from across the nation. Each state rural water association holds their own taste test and winners are eligible to compete in the national competition. Finalists are selected in a preliminary round, with the finals judged by a panel of expert guest judges. This year’s panel included U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations Deputy Staff Director Fitzhugh Elder, IV; Joe Gilson, a member of the Donald J. Trump administration working in the USDA; USDA Water and Environmental Programs Senior Engineer Nicole Schindler; USDA Water and Environmental Programs Community Programs Specialist Lisa Chesnel; and USDA Rural Development Archaeologist Basia Howard.

Judges rated each water sample based on its clarity, bouquet and taste.

Video recordings and photo galleries of the Taste Test are available below.