NRWA Opens Registration for the 2018 WaterPro Conference, Sept. 17-19 in Fort Worth, Texas

DUNCAN, Okla. – The National Rural Water Association opened registration for the 2018 WaterPro Conference, scheduled for Sept. 17-19 in Fort Worth, Texas. Those planning to attend the conference can register at waterproconference.org/register/attendee/

The conference room block will open on April 16. Housing information can be found at waterproconference.org/travel/hotel/

A full registration is $525 or $495 for NRWA members through August 17. On August 18, the price will increase to $580 and $550 for members.

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 Assists Community Suffering from Collapsed Tank and 10 Million Gallons in Water Loss

PINE GROVE, Calif. – When an accident caused a water tank to implode, the Pine Grove Community Services District discovered they were losing 10 million gallons of water a year. Assistance from the California Rural Water Association helped bring the situation under control and saved the community over $13,000 per year.

The situation first emerged when Pine Grove connected a 12-inch main line to a 500,000-gallon water tank that was vented for, at most, a six-inch main.

“It wouldn’t have been a problem if a car hadn’t run over a fire hydrant,” said CRWA Circuit Rider Angela Wendele.

A car ran over a fire hydrant and created a massive drain that emptied the tank and created a vacuum.

“It imploded the tank,” explained Paul Johnston, a member of the Pine Grove community council.

A water audit at the time found that the community was losing 10 million gallons of water.

“We’d gotten some pretty high readings,” Johnston said.

The high-water loss was unsustainable, because Pine Grove buys its water from the Amador Water Agency. The leak was costing Pine Grove over $13,000 per year. The District made repairs to the damaged tank, but over 7.5 million gallons remained unaccounted for.

Wendele was visiting the community when they brought up the difficulty in detecting the leaks.

“The situation is complicated because this area is prone to springs,” Wendele explained. “There are a lot of mines and when they fill up, springs will emerge above ground.”

Angela Wendele Circuit Rider for California Rural Water Association, Russ Howard, Water Operations Specialist Pine Grove CSD

Wendele and Operations Specialist Russ Howard took Pine Grove’s leak detection equipment and went to an area with an apparent leak. The area had a large water flow that was eroding the hillside.

“I suspected the water was running a long time because the erosion wasn’t new,” Wendele said.

She asked Howard to test the water for total chlorine. When the water showed chlorine levels, it was clear the source was a leak and not a natural spring. Wendele used the detection equipment to narrow the leak to roughly three feet. The leak was behind a customer’s fenced yard, so Howard made contact later to repair the leak.

They then went to another suspected leak where water flow was eroding the pavement. Using the leak detection equipment, Wendele confirmed another leak under the pavement.

Angela using leak detection equipment and as-builts to narrow down leak location.

After repairing the leaks, Pine Grove has reduced its water loss and made its costs sustainable. It proved to be a positive day for both the community and Wendele.

Wendele had assisted Pine Grove with annual board training, USDA loan applications and rate studies.

“She’s always been very friendly, helpful and willing to go to bat for us,” Johnston said of Wendele’s assistance.

CRWA is still aiding Pine Grove.

“Julia is working with us now to help get us a grant to replace the tank,” Johnston said.

Julia Martinez is a CRWA specialist that assists communities with accessing State Revolving Fund programs.

“They’re always there,” Johnston said of California Rural Water. “When we call, they respond.”

NRWA Applauds Congress’ Funding Increase for Rural Water Infrastructure

DUNCAN, Okla. – The National Rural Water Association commends the House and Senate Appropriations Committees for providing increases in federal water infrastructure funding for Rural America.

“This is a very significant action from Congress with increased attention and investments to address the unmet water infrastructure needs in Rural America,” stated Sam Wade, CEO of NRWA.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 (HR 1625) included $560,263,000 for USDA’s Rural Utilities Service Water and Waste Disposal Program Account, and, to further enhance rural water infrastructure, the appropriators included an additional $500,000,000 for direct rural water and waste disposal loans and grants to remain available until expended. This federal program is the only water infrastructure account specifically targeted to rural populations.

Congress also provided USDA the flexibility to use this funding to increase the direct loan level to support billions in loan authority. These low-interest loans are coupled with a 40-year term to make water rates affordable for low-income residents and communities.

There are approximately 52,000 community water supplies in the United States, and 92% serve populations of 10,000 or less. The NRWA and its 49 state association affiliates provide compliance training and technical assistance to approximately 100,000 rural and small system personnel annually to address the numerous federally-mandated drinking and clean water rules and regulations.

America enjoys the safest water supply in the world due to the small water and waste water system personnel that work every minute of every day to protect and maintain the integrity of the nation’s most important resource.

“Communities that have been waiting for available affordable resources to address deferred upgrades or enhancements will now be able to move forward,” stated Wade.

NRWA looks forward to working in close consultation with USDA and other industry partners to make wise use of these additional funds and address Rural America’s water infrastructure needs.

Statement from the National Rural Water Association on the Retirement of Senator Thad Cochran

Today, Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi was praised by his Senate colleagues for his long, devoted service to this nation. Senator Cochran had previously announced his retirement from the United States Senate that will be effective April 1, 2018.

Senator Cochran honorably served Mississippi in the United States Senate and the House of Representatives for 46 years. Throughout that period, he held many leadership posts including serving as the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Senate Agriculture Committee.  Throughout his entire life, in his posts as an Eagle Scout, Naval Officer, or Statesman, Thad Cochran always stepped up to serve others.

On the Senate floor, many of his colleagues gave their final public tributes. Some of the resounding remarks and repeated descriptions included describing him as the quiet persuader, gentile southerner, the man with unquestionable honor and integrity and the man that was always true to his word.

Let us reflect on the character and decency of this fine man. His dignity and moral fiber are the qualities that this nation longs for in its leaders and are the same virtues we attempt to instill in our children.

Throughout his public service, he was and continues to be a champion for rural America. His work and vision have benefited the quality of life for millions of rural Americans even though most will not know his name nor the positions he held, or even how they benefitted. No man has ever practiced the art of politics and public policy to benefit so many others without regard for personal recognition than Senator Thad Cochran.

As a national organization we can testify that thousands of rural communities and millions of individuals across this nation now have access to safe, clean and affordable water directly from his efforts for 46 years.

In a time when many Americans have doubts and low opinions of Congress, let us hope that more elected officials now and in the future, will follow the example that Senator Thad Cochran practiced each day in his service to this nation. The National Rural Water Association and this entire nation owes a tremendous debt of gratitude for his service. Senator Cochran has fought the good fight, he has finished the course, he has kept the faith.

Rural Water Endures Blizzard to Find Leak that Left Two Communities Without Water

JAY VILLAGE, Maine – When a massive water leak drained the tanks of the Jay Village Water District and threatened to consume the supplies of the Livermore Falls Water District, experts from the Maine Rural Water Association worked through a blizzard to help locate the leak and restore water to the communities.

“I got the call on Monday,” explained MRWA Circuit Rider Peter Gautreau. “They told me they had a massive leak they couldn’t find and they’d been without water since Sunday.”

The leak had lowered the water level in the Jay Village tanks so that ice floating in the tank put pressure on a door and blew out the seals.

“They lost the entire tank,” Gautreau said. “They were in dire straits.”

Jay buys its water from the Livermore Falls Water District. The leak drew so much demand from Livermore Falls that is set off alarms at that utility.

“They throttled down the flow to Jay so they could maintain pressure,” Gautreau said.

The leak was estimated to be at least 800 gallons per minute. Still, they could not locate the leak, which showed no signs on the surface. The loss of pressure meant Jay Village was put on a boil water notice and forced Spruce Mountain Elementary School to cancel class.

The Circuit Rider spent the day using valves in the distribution system to isolate sections of the community and narrow down the location of the leak. He narrowed the search to a section of pipe between two valves near the Route 4 highway. He couldn’t locate the leak next to the busy highway.

Gautreau returned the next day with Circuit Rider Andy Gilson to try to locate the leak and make repairs. It had already snowed 18 inches.

“The snow made it very dangerous to be working on the road,” Gautreau said.

They advised the Jay Village utility on how to repair the seals on the water tank, then began searching for the leak with acoustic leak detection equipment. They searched for two hours, with the leak draining eight feet of water from the Livermore tanks, without finding the leak.

With more snow falling on the communities, new leaks opened in both Jay and Livermore. Gilson started locating those leaks, while Gautreau formulated a plan to locate the large Jay leak.

“At that point, our best bet was to have a contractor put in a valve halfway between our isolated valves to cut the distance in half,” Gautreau explained.

Contractors arrived Wednesday to install the valve, but opening the pipe only raised more questions.

“When they cut the pipe, it was full of water and with a leak that size, it should have been empty,” Gautreau said.

Gautreau and Gilson started widening their search for the leak, even drilling holes in the ground and using probes to search for water from the leak. They ultimately found an unknown valve.

“We ended up finding a mystery valve that was wide open, allowing the water to go to a dead-end road,” Gilson explained.

Once that valve was closed, they started backtracking through the system, isolating the leak and restoring water to the community. They restored service to 98% of the community, but still hadn’t located the massive leak.

It did narrow the possible location of the leak to a river crossing that supplied water to the Jay Village paper mill.

“It was one of the first things I asked,” Gautreau said. “To lose that much water and not have it show up, it was probably going into the river.”

Jay Village workers thought they had isolated the river crossing early in the process, but it looked like there was another valve that controlled flow to the river crossing. There was a meter pit near the river crossing that should help answer the question.

Thursday the Circuit Riders and Jay Village workers hiked through four feet of snow into a wooded area to locate the meter. Gautreau and Gilson used metal detectors to search for another valve. They located another unknown valve that controlled service to the river crossing. When that valve was opened, it was clear that the leak was in the river.

“You could see the water bubbling up in the river,” Gautreau said.

Despite several feet of snow and complications with finding valves, Rural Water’s assistance helped restore drinking water to most of the community and located the massive leak that lead to the emergency.

Rural Water Assists in Pump Repair; Prevents Hospital and Nursing Home from Losing Service

FAYETTE, Miss. – When the City of Fayette, Miss. lost its last booster pump, the community’s nursing home and hospital were in danger of losing service. Assistance from the Mississippi Rural Water Association helped restore water to the community and prevent a disaster.

The city was supposed to have three booster pumps and a service pump, but two of the booster pumps had been out of service for several months and the remaining pumps were not operating at full capacity. When the service pump failed, several sections of the community were left without water.

“We had to cancel school and my nursing home and my hospital were about to lose water,” said Fayette Mayor Londell Enoches.

The community began calling state agencies, looking for assistance. The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency had limited options because there was no declared emergency, but they referred the community to MsRWA.

Joe Grammer, a MsRWA Circuit Rider, traveled to Fayette and began to assess the situation.

“They had ordered replacement parts, but those wouldn’t arrive for several days,” Grammer explained. “The pumps weren’t operating properly – they had a damaged impeller or something else – so they would have to be rebuilt.”

The Circuit Rider started calling supply companies and local well drillers, trying to locate parts. A drilling company directed him to Precision Armature, an electric motor shop. A tech from Precision Armature came to Fayette to assist with servicing the motors and pumps.

“He helped get one motor working,” Grammer said. “We disassembled the pumps. Then we used the best parts – we picked out the best impeller – to rebuild one good pump.”

“We got the city back up before dark.”

After the emergency, Grammer continued to assist the system.

“They had an aerator that was off-line because it had a split in the bottom,” he explained. “Mississippi Rural Water helped them locate another aerator.”

The Fayette water system needs to add lyme to change the Ph of their water and make it less corrosive. When one of their lyme feeders broke, Grammer helped locate a feeder from another community that had recently upgraded their equipment and helped arrange for Fayette to purchase the used feeder.

The assistance has been critical to allowing Fayette to provide clean drinking water to their 1,600 residents.

“I have much respect for Mr. Grammer,” Enoches said. “His help has been very important. He’s a great asset for rural Mississippi.”

NRWA’s Region 8 Environmental Finance Center to Host Forum on April 16-17 in Casper, Wyoming

DUNCAN, Okla. – The National Rural Water Association’s Environmental Finance Center working in partnership with the EPA Region 8 office and the EPA Water Infrastructure Resiliency Finance Center will host a finance forum focusing on the needs of Region 8 communities on April 17-16 at the Ramkota Hotel and Conference Center in Casper, Wyo. The event will be held the two days preceding the Wyoming Association of Rural Water Systems annual conference.

Registration is free for this event. Register Now. 

NRWA’s EFC helps communities find effective and innovative ways to help address the growing costs of protecting public health and the environment in a sustainable and equitable manner. The EFC will provide finance-related training, technical assistance, finance studies, and other analytical support to help communities develop sustainable solutions to the critical “how-to-pay” issues associated with meeting environmental standards and goals.

Forum participants will learn how to increase financial viability and access to funding, improve customer satisfaction, develop operational resiliency, ensure water resource adequacy and build stakeholder understanding and support.

Attendees will include drinking water and wastewater utilities, water sector professionals, community leaders, technical assistance providers, and regional funders.

Sustainable Utility Management: 2 PM CST April 12

New Webinar: Sustainable Utility Management: 2 PM CST April 12
Register Now

This webinar will cover the Workshop in a Box and will help water and wastewater professionals prioritize the ten key management areas of sustainably managed utilities: product quality, customer satisfaction, employee & leadership development, operational optimization, financial viability, infrastructure stability, operational resiliency, community sustainability and economic development, water resource adequacy, and stakeholder understanding and support. We will discuss the attributes and walk you through any easy way to see your utility’s strengths and weaknesses. The webinar will also teach you how to develop an improvement plan and an action plan to address the weaknesses you identify.

NRWA Statement on Small Water Systems – False Narrative

The National Rural Water Association (NRWA) cautions policymakers against accepting the “false narrative” that small and rural community water systems are unsustainable and new federal statutory and regulatory authority to usurp local governments’ authority is the answer.

This false narrative is not new. It has been around since the passage of the Safe Drinking Water Act in 1974. Today, the narrative continues to be promoted from self-serving interests who stand to financially benefit from additional mandatory consolidation and privatization of small community water utilities. Some regulatory agencies are also supporting this narrative because of the administrative burden associated with the larger number of small community water systems.

Some of the more inaccurate statements made recently include the claims that (1) water utilities with fewer than 6,000 connections are unsustainable, (2) municipalities (i.e. mayors) should not be allowed to govern water utilities, and (3) small water utilities are unsustainable because they cannot afford to install advanced technology. These statements are being used to urge federal agencies and Congress to enact new legislation and policy to solve these perceived and unfounded problems at the expense of locally-preferred solutions.

Federal agency data contradicts these arguments and actually demonstrates widespread success in sustainability of small water utilities. The President’s FY 2019 Budget justification for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Water and Waste Disposal programs states that more than 93% of the current Rural Development portfolio of 15,536 loans (totaling $12.5 billion) met the Agency’s sustainability ratios. It is also important to note that USDA’s sustainability standard is the most rigorous standard of any federal agency.

Other federal data also undermines the argument that more Washington authority is needed to direct small community consolidation. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data shows that voluntary consolidation is occurring through the local decision-making process when it is in the best interest of the local citizens. An analysis of EPA’s water system database (EPA SDWIS) shows there are 3,805 fewer community water systems (CWS) today (50,259 CWSs) than in 2000 (54,064 CWSs) and 1,851 fewer community water systems than 10 years ago (52,110 CWSs).

The decision for any local government to privatize, consolidate, or enter into any partnership should be determined at the discretion of local citizens. There is nothing inherently more efficient or more economical in the operation of a private water utility versus a public-governmental water utility. We encourage every community regardless of size or type of governmental structure to continually evaluate all options to enhance their sustainability. Through our state rural water associations, NRWA stands ready to help in all areas of water utility governance, management, compliance, operation and finance to support the continued sustainability of the nation’s drinking water and wastewater services to rural and small town America.

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.