NRWA Continues Training Water and Wastewater Professionals

Ft. Lauderdale, FL. – Rural water gathered in Fort Lauderdale, Florida from June 25 – 28 for In-Service Training with over 450 in attendance. Circuit riders, wastewater technicians, source water protection specialists, and other water professionals received continued education to help to serve rural communities. The rural water industry understands the importance of continually learning about best practices, innovative techniques and new technology.

Joel Baxley, Acting Assistant to the USDA Secretary for Rural Development, addressed attendees the morning of June 27. Baxley conveyed the importance of what the rural water industry does for our rural communities, and that USDA Rural Development can help play a crucial role in helping rural water’s efforts. He also met with individuals to discuss different aspects of the industry.

With three days of training, many subjects and topics covered all aspects of rural water and wastewater. From classes such as “Phosphorus Removal Basics” to “Disaster Response & Recovery” and “RD Loan and Grant Program Opportunities”, new knowledge and valued experience was shared across the board.

Over the course of the three-day training, a separate room was set up specifically for RD Apply training so our experienced state individuals can take the knowledge back to their communities and help apply for USDA loans and grants. In doing so they are helping make a difference for those systems and utilities that need infrastructure updates and more. Phil Leary with the Florida Department of Agriculture also spoke to the Source Water Protection Specialist attendees.

Rural water is setting the example of providing industry specific training for Rural America in order to better serve our rural communities and families. As technology, innovations, and standards move forward so does rural water.

 

Multiple Tornadoes Cause Damage in Western Ohio

Thirteen recorded tornadoes caused destruction across western Ohio on May 27, including the city of Dayton and surrounding areas. Dayton is a major water supplier to towns and cities in the area, like the rural water system in Brookville. Due to the damage from the EF4 tornado, the system in Dayton stopped supplying water to Brookville, causing depressurization in their system.
Brookville’s Service Director, Chris Holman, contacted Tim Ballard, Ohio Rural Water Association Circuit Rider and head of the Ohio Rural Water Disaster Task Force, to assist with recovering from three tornadoes that hit the area.
“For an area that had never experienced a tornado like this, they were still well prepared,” Ballard said.
Ballard said the city’s staff had already completed a visual check when he arrived on the scene. The wastewater treatment facility was in the direct path of the tornado, but the system didn’t miss a beat during operation with the help of their back up generator.
When Ballard arrived in Brookville, he developed an initial plan with Holman to perform a leak investigation on all areas with homes that were destroyed or were heavily damaged after water was redistributed to the area. The goal of the investigation was to conduct a preliminary assessment of the damage from the tornado and isolate specific service laterals that needed further repairs to restore pressurization to the system.
In the early hours of May 30, Brookville started to recirculate water again. Through the leak investigation, Ballard was able to isolate various leaks and other areas with issues and improve the pressurization of the system. By late afternoon on May 30, the system was fully pressurized, all areas of the system were surveyed, and all homes that had leaks were turned off. By late afternoon on June 1, all sampling had been completed and the system returned to normal operation.
“What stood out to me the most is that the city was extremely thorough and helped the citizens respond to the emergency,” Ballard said. “The staff of the service department showed extreme dedication, arriving at the office only an hour after the initial hit of the tornado and working late into the next day.”
While most of the city was unaffected by the direct path of the tornado, there were many homes that withstood damage. A total of 39 homes were destroyed, 42 had major damage, 55 had minor damage and 180 were affected by the tornado that hit Brookville.

 

Stutsman Water District Grows with Local Cooperation and Decisions – A Case Study

Many years ago, the conversations began as, “How are we going to provide water service to consumers across vast, scarcely populated areas of rural America?” After cities, towns, and rural water districts successfully provided solutions, the concern became, “Can we maintain quality service and an adequate water supply for future generations?” Through no small feat, Stutsman Rural Water District (SRWD) has proven the answer to be, “Yes!” Sustainability isn’t a concept taken lightly by this Rural Water District.

History SRWD in Jamestown, North Dakota was originally constructed in 1985-1986. The customer base consisted of 675 rural users in 14 small towns that had individual wells, and users in 15 urban subdivisions. The water system’s infrastructure consisted of 900 miles of PVC pipeline, a 400 gallon per minute (gpm) water treatment plant and 9 additional pump stations with underground storage. The original system provided water to customers within a 2,500 square mile area. From 1987 – 2010, SRWD’s water system experienced slow but steady growth. In 2010 SRWD had reached its design capacity. Potential customers were being turned away due to the lack of adequate infrastructure to serve any additional users. It was at that point, the SRWD Board of Directors decided to move forward with a system-wide expansion project.

SRWD’s System-Wide Expansion Project began in 2010. The project is being completed in phases due to the availability of funding. SRWD is currently in the process of completing Phase 6 of the system-wide expansion project. The district’s goal is to acquire funding for Phase 7 of the project this year and complete the final phase of the expansion project in 2020. To date, the system-wide expansion project includes the addition of 1,160 new customers, 1,100 miles of pipeline, 2 pump stations, 4 above ground water storage tanks and increasing the water treatment plant from 400 gpm to 2,000 gpm.

SRWD’s Industrial System expanded its customer base in 2009 by committing to provide 198 million gallons of industrial water per year to the Great River Energy Power Plant. The industrial contract also included transporting 46 million gallons per year of discharge water from the power plant, 9 miles, through a 12-inches pipeline, to a Wastewater Treatment Plant in the City of Jamestown, ND. In 2014 SRWD extended its industrial system by providing 145 million gallons of industrial water per year to the Dakota Spirit AgEnergy Ethanol Plant. SRWD’s industrial infrastructure includes a network of PVC pipeline ranging in size from 12 – 16 inches, 2 industrial pump stations and 2 large above ground water storage tanks.

SRWD’s Current Water System meets the water supply needs of a diverse customer base including basic residential, agricultural, dairy and livestock producers, commercial businesses, campgrounds and seasonal cabins, industrial customers, and bulk water sales provided to 3 cities/towns. SRWD serves all of Stutsman County and portions of 5 surrounding counties including LaMoure, Logan, Kidder, Foster and Griggs.

The current customer base has grown from 675 to 2,400 rural users which expands into 20 small towns, 33 urban subdivisions, a large 1,500 cow dairy operation and the industrial customers located in the Spiritwood Energy Park Association (SEPA) which includes a power plant and an ethanol plant. SRWD’s infrastructure, which began at 900 miles of PVC pipeline, now includes 2,150 miles of pipeline stretching across a 7,000 square mile area, a 2,000 gpm water treatment plant, 12 pump stations with underground storage, 2 elevated water towers and 4 above ground water storage tanks.

Highlights of Stutsman Rural Water District

SRWD supplies bulk water to 3 towns. The towns have abandoned their aging water treatment facilities to receive a dependable, high quality water supply from SRWD. The cities have their own employees who handle customer billing, maintain their city water supply systems and provide water testing to meet North Dakota Department of Health requirements.

SRWD works cooperatively with its neighboring water districts to provide water service to as many rural users as possible. Often the users that still need water service are located in hard-to-reach fringe areas. A district may not have existing infrastructure or adequate water capacity in its service area, but a neighboring water district is able to provide the service. SRWD has allowed neighboring water districts to provide service to consumers within SRWD boundaries which they are not able to feasibly serve. Several of those water districts have reciprocated and allowed SRWD to provide service to potential users within their boundaries as long as they also have the same feasibility issues.

SRWD worked with the City of Carrington, ND to assist a large commercial dairy operation (VanBedaf Dairy) located 3 miles west of Carrington. In 2010, it was discovered that the dairy had limited water resources for its operations. The dairy was located near the northern boundary of SRWD; however, SRWD also had limited capability to provide additional service to that location. SRWD contracted with the City of Carrington to purchase up to 35 million gallons of water annually for distribution to the dairy and any additional new users in that area to be installed during the SRWD’s system-wide expansion project.

In 2009 and again in 2014, infrastructure was installed to provide industrial water from the SRWD water treatment plant and the City of Jamestown to the Spiritwood Energy Park. The 9-mile infrastructure transports discharge water from the park to the City of Jamestown’s Wastewater Treatment Plant. SRWD’s decision to expand its customer base, through the addition of industrial customers located in the energy park, has provided immense benefits. Benefits are in the form of rate stability and contribution to reserve funds for future needs of the water system.

SRWD employs 6 professionals: A General Manager, Distribution Manager, Office Manager and 3 certified water treatment and distribution specialists in the field. SRWD provides quality water and sustainable service because of cooperative agreements with neighboring towns and their employees, industries and other water utility providers. Through the collective efforts of all stakeholders involved, SRWD continues to support economic development and promote growth in the region.

NRWA Issues Statement on the Passing of Senator Thad Cochran

Rural America had no greater champion in Congress than former Senator Thad Cochran. Serving as both the Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Cochran authored and supported programs, policy and funding, specifically targeted to increase the quality of life in rural communities across the nation. His service to this country included more than four decades in the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate and the U.S. Navy. He was the true model of a selfless public servant; never seeking credit, never losing touch with his humble roots in Mississippi, and never losing sight of his mission to serve the people he represented with unquestionable loyalty, integrity and honor.

Many people will not know his face or name, but history will record the millions of Americans that were positively impacted by the Senator’s dedication. Let us pay tribute to this man and his family for their tireless service to this nation. No man has loved and served his state and nation more, and no man has practiced the art of politics for the public good of the common man and woman more than Senator Thad Cochran.

USDA Urges Applications for Funding

https://nrwa.org/state-associations/Congress provided U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) with $4 billion last year and another $1.9 billion this year to assist with water and wastewater infrastructure in rural communities under 10,000 population.

USDA’s Rural Utility Service has streamlined the application process through an electronic form, RD Apply, for this funding, in the form of affordable low-interest loans and grants, to be specifically utilized by small communities and rural areas.

Loan and grant funding has been pooled for reallocation back to State Rural Development Offices.  Now is the time to contact your State Rural Development Office to build, upgrade and/ or expand water and wastewater systems.

Congress heard Rural Water’s voices and concerns and responded accordingly with significant increases over the historic funding levels.  The current interest rates for the direct loan at a 40-year term is affordable and allows reasonable upgrades and modifications that could potentially save utilities money and provide for a sustainable future for rural America.

The application time and process can seem challenging. However, State Associations have trained staff to directly assist utilities through the entire application process.  NRWA has identified over 100 non-federal actions that can be directly performed at no-cost to the utility. Please contact your Rural Water State Association for direct assistance.

 

What Exactly is a Sustainable Water System?

An article for this quarter’s Rural Water magazine. To read other articles from this issue, please click here. 

By Kirk Stinchcombe, Waterworth CEO

What exactly is a “sustainable” water or wastewater system? This term gets thrown around a lot, and it seems like everyone has a slightly different idea of what it means. I tend to think about sustainability in a very broad sense, which is how it is rooted in history.

The concept of sustainability has been around since at least the 1970s, but it really started to come into vogue in the late 1980s. In 1987, the United Nations’ World Commission on Environment and Development released a landmark report called Our Common Future. The authors coined the term “sustainable development,” which they defined as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

People often think about sustainability quite narrowly to be just about the environment, but the authors of Our Common Future had a much more holistic view. Certainly, protecting the natural environment was at the front of their minds, but for them that was just one part of it. Social and financial sustainability were viewed as equally important. Together, these three pillars—caring for the environment, society and our financial health—are what sustain our communities and ecosystems.

Let’s think briefly about how these three pillars apply to the water and wastewater systems that we are the custodians of. When it comes to environment, the first thing that comes to mind is water conservation—using the resource efficiently so we can leave more in streams and aquifers for fish and other species. But we positively and negatively affect the environment in lots of other ways too—minimizing energy use for pumping and treating, maximizing the life of infrastructure to avoid impacts of manufacturing and installing new pipe and other gear, adequately treating wastewater before we dispose it back into the environment. These and many other things we do have a significant impact on local and global ecosystems.

The biggest impact we have on social sustainability is actually hugely positive—the fact that we consistently deliver safe and reliable water right to the tap. This is something that we do really, really well. So much so, in fact, that our customers often seem to take it for granted. But one does not have to travel far in the world to see the devastating impact that unsafe drinking water has on communities. Another key way we affect social sustainability is by keeping rates affordable, particularly for lower income families. Also important is whether our rates are fair by charging different residents and businesses proportionate to the costs they impose on the system based on the way they use water.

Financial sustainability is mainly about whether we are collecting enough revenue to keep the system running year after year. Crucially, this includes planning for infrastructure replacement as system components wear out over time. Recall that the concept of sustainable development includes ensuring that future generations can meet their needs. When we fail to plan for infrastructure replacement, effectively this means we intend to pass these costs on to the future, which raises some big questions about inter-generational fairness.

When everything comes together, we deliver water safely and reliably; our finances are in order and are considerate of the costs we will pass on to future generations; our impacts on the natural environment are well managed, and we have strong support from our residents and elected officials. That, in a nutshell, is a sustainable water or wastewater system.

Of course, pursuing all of these things in parallel takes time, perseverance and resources—including money. Sometimes it can seem overwhelming, particularly when we have already fallen behind in one or more of these areas.

Sustainability is never easy, but there are a few things that keep me going. First, I try to take a holistic outlook. Take, for example, water rate setting. On the one hand, we need to keep rates affordable. On the other, we need to collect enough money to continue to operate the system, including managing our environmental impacts. These goals may seem at odds, but I think that misses a holistic view of sustainability. Rather than thinking about rate management as trading off between competing goals, I think of it as a delicate balancing act between the three equally important pillars. The goal is to ask what is going to move us forward most with sustainability broadly defined.

Second is the fact that there are so many partners out there to help with the journey. There are colleagues from other water service providers who share what they have learned at conferences and industry events. There are federal and state agency partners who can offer knowledge, resources and, in a pinch, grant programs. And, of course, we have the National Rural Water Association and state level RWAs. The breadth of programs that NRWA and state associations offer amazes me. In that vein, my company, Waterworth, recently commenced a pilot project with NRWA to provide software and support services to members focused on bolstering financial sustainability (see www.waterworth.net/NRWA). I feel very privileged to be part of this project, knowing the vital role that NRWA plays in helping water service providers across the country with planning their sustainability road maps.

Third is taking the long view. Way back when I was in university, not long after Our Common Future first came out, a wise professor told me that sustainability is not a place you arrive at, but rather an ongoing journey. That’s a lesson I’ve never forgotten. Your water or wastewater system is never going to “become” sustainable. This is something you just have to continuously work towards. But the journey is important, and in taking it, we make our communities and the environment better. Regardless of where you are on your sustainability journey, the key is to keep the end goals in sight, even if they will always be on the distant horizon.

The Loss of Community Water Supply: Good or Bad?

By Sam Wade, NRWA CEO

An incremental decrease of community water supply systems supports the effectiveness of local-decision making as environmental and financial landscapes change over the course of time.

According to the US EPA Echo database, there has been a reduction of 336 systems in the last year from the 50,067 in 2018 to the latest inventory number of 49,731.  This is a continued trend from the 2000 inventory number of 54,064 community water supplies.  This reduction can be attributed to two primary reasons: urbanization and consolidations within the industry.

Urbanization

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, a place is “urban” if it’s a big, modest or even small collection of people living near each other. This definition includes Houston, with its 4.9 million people, and Bellevue, Iowa, with its 2,543.  The U.S. Census Bureau statistic shows the degree of urbanization in the United States from 2000 to 2050. In 2015, about 82.7 percent of the total population in the United States lived in urban areas. Projections estimate that the corresponding figure in 2050 will be 87.4 percent.

It can be summarized that expansion of population centers into what used to be considered rural areas fuels local- decision making for consolidation of small systems such as mobile home parks and individual development owned systems; thus, reducing the number of community water supplies in the inventory.

District Consolidation

Consolidation of smaller systems is occurring continuously.  Regardless of the consolidator’s name, whether it is water district, regional water system, special utility district, co-op or authority, these types of systems often encompass large service areas with multiple county service areas.    As these systems have grown and expanded, smaller systems within the service areas often connect onto the district or larger system.  These interconnections take on various types of partnership from fully collapsing the smaller system into the district to a number of other options. These entities tend to consolidate to leverage available resources and expertise to benefit both parties and continue a high quality of service to the users.  In a recent blind survey of utilities with 3,073 respondents, 67% of the non-municipal respondents such as the districts and 47% of the municipal respondents indicated they either receive or provide services to other entities.

The loss of community water supplies: good or bad?

The largest reduction in community water supply systems is in the smaller population served category, serving 500 or less.   The reality is that smaller systems face the biggest challenges due to lower economies of scale to meet the same standards as large metropolitan systems.  Congress recognized this in establishing technical assistance programs for rural and small communities within the Safe Drinking Water Act and providing assistance through the USDA Rural Development Water and Waste Programs.  This assistance provides a pool of expertise these smaller systems cannot afford individually.

Population Served CWS
2000
CWS
2016
CWS
2018
CWS 2019 +/- in last year
500 or less 31,688 27,710 27,339 27,065 -274
501-3,300 14,149 13,506 13,408    13,339 -69
3,301-10,000 4,458 4,973 4,992 4,992 -0-
10,000 + 3,769 4,307 4,328 4,335 +7
           
Total 54,064 50,496 50,067 49,731 -336

The reduction in the inventory is being accomplished through local-decision making without legislation or regulatory interference.  Local governing officials and their families drink the water that is produced and make these decisions in the best interest of the customers and citizens they serve.

Iowa Rural Water Assists with Recovery Efforts in Hamburg

Iowa endured historic flooding along with other Midwestern states last month and conditions worsened for Hamburg, Iowa when the levees broke on March 17. Iowa Rural Water Association Circuit Rider Zeb McFarland headed out to assist in recovery and assessed the damaged areas with Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR).

After sitting down with city employees, a plan was developed. Parts of the water system that were still under water were closed. At the time McFarland and IDNR were on-site, a Do-Not-Use advisory was issued due to the inability to maintain pressure. IDNR requested that the city immediately start chlorinating the system. McFarland started contacting chemical companies and other cities to gather the supplies and equipment that would be needed.

“The city’s normal supplier was also flooded out and could not supply them with chlorine or anything else,” said McFarland.

After locating a city that had a spare pump and carboy of chlorine on hand, McFarland traveled 100 miles round trip to pick up the supplies. He returned and immediately began setting up a temporary treatment plant and tapping the main for an injection point. After some on-site water testing for ammonia with his SL1000 Hach tester, he was able to set the right chlorine dosage for disinfection.

On March 27, McFarland returned to Hamburg to check on the conditions of the temporary treatment plant and pump system. To meet the water needs of the community, Hamburg was also trucking water. McFarland received a report from the water system that the pressure was slowly rising, but leaks are still possible in the flooded part of the system.

“They are hoping for the water to recede, at which time they will continue to find and isolate valves,” said McFarland.

He identified 0.89 mg/L of free chlorine and 1.19 mg/L total chlorine at the source entry point that day.

“The system had to overcome ammonia in the raw water to achieve the free chlorine,” noted McFarland of the chlorine amounts.

Not only was McFarland assisting Hamburg, but other areas as well such as Glenwood, Iowa. As recovery continues, McFarland and Iowa Rural Water Association plan to maintain assistance to ensure that the water system in Hamburg returns to normal operations.

NRWA Apprenticeship Program Partners with California State University

 

Duncan, Okla. – NRWA and California State University at Sacramento, Office of Water Programs (OWP) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on February 26, 2019, recognizing the Office of Water Programs Operator Courses as quality training that may be utilized in the NRWA Apprenticeship Program.

“NRWA recognizes the importance of consistent core training for the overall occupational training combined with the flexibility for the licensing and certification needs of each state,” said Shannan Walton, NRWA Apprenticeship Program Manager. “In order to create uniformity, NRWA wanted curriculum that all 49 State Associations can build upon and develop the next generation of well-qualified water and wastewater operation specialists. We believe that’s what the OWP will do.”

Launched in July 2017, the NRWA Apprenticeship Program now has 17 approved State Association programs and 13 that are in the process of developing an apprenticeship program. The OWP will help State Associations fulfill the NRWA Apprenticeship related instruction requirements by including the OWP in the apprenticeship curriculum.

OWP will provide instructor guide materials to NRWA-verified instructors to educate registered apprentices in a State Association apprenticeship program.  The material presented in these guides provides instructors with additional resources for developing class materials and course exams.

Each state association with an apprenticeship program must verify and approve an instructor for that individual to receive the OWP instructor guide materials. Registered apprentices will also be able to purchase training manuals and other supplemental learning resources directly from OWP that help them meet program requirements and get access to current job-related information.

The NRWA Apprenticeship Program, that has two apprenticeship options of water or wastewater operation specialists, requires each apprentice to participate in approximately 288 hours of related instruction that may be delivered in a classroom, through occupational or industrial courses, or by correspondence courses.

“The objective of the NRWA Apprenticeship Program guideline standards is to create skilled, professional utility workers in all phases of the industry,” stated Matt Holmes, NRWA Deputy CEO. “The OWP will enhance our State Association apprenticeship programs to reach this objective and help ensure that safe, affordable drinking water continues to be provided to our small communities.”

The OWP is recognized as one of the leading national training programs for operators and managers of drinking water and wastewater plants and facilities. Over one million operator and manager training manuals have been sold throughout the world and translated into many different languages.

Many in the water industry are familiar with the affordable training materials and programs produced by OWP, which was established by Dr. Ken Kerri over 40 years ago. Dr. Kerri’s main goal was to help operators do their jobs better. OWP training materials are considered a benchmark for water industry operator instructional materials and still known to many as “the Ken Kerri manuals.”

“This agreement is a natural partnership between OWP, as operator training developer, and NRWA and State Associations as training delivery organizations,” said Dr. Ramzi Mahmood, long-time OWP director.

NRWA is also currently working on tracking software and a learning management system that State Associations will be able to access. These additions will help states maintain records and provide more resources as the apprenticeship programs develop further.

WaterPro 2019: You’re Invited to the Industry Event of the Year

Duncan, Okla. – The WaterPro Conference, coordinated by the National Rural Water Association, will be held in Nashville, TN at the Gaylord Opryland Resort, September 9 – 11.

This event brings together  water and wastewater utility systems – large and small, municipal and rural – for sessions in operations, management, boardsmanship and governance. Registration has been opened for all to attend on the WaterPro Conference website, www.WaterProconference.org.

The Gaylord Opryland Resort will serve as the perfect venue to host this year’s conference as it provides the location for all sessions, events, registration, exhibits and sleeping accommodations. Not to mention that it allows you to hit all the high notes of Music City both in the area and under our roof including its new high-scale indoor water park, Soundwaves. Reserve your room now at the discounted room block rate.

NRWA invites you to come for the networking, educational sessions and the latest in innovation and technology in our exhibit hall and explore all that Nashville has to offer.