MRWA Assistance Helps Community Repair Seemingly Impossible Leak Under Lake

ELYSIAN, Minn. – Ron Greenwald stood on the lake shore in Elysian, Minn., trying to find a way to repair a leak under eight feet of water. Assistance from the Minnesota Rural Water Association helped run a temporary service line and locate critical pipes so that Elysian could repair the leak at considerable savings.

“We had a substantial leak that was causing a loss of pressure,” said Greenwald, the Elysian Water Superintendent. “We knew it was in an eight-inch line under the lake that fed a subdivision.”

Elysian workers took a boat onto the lake to try to spot any sign of pressurized water under the surface. They found water bubbling to the surface over 60 yards from shore. That’s when they contacted Minnesota Rural Water for assistance.

“They asked if I had equipment that could locate a leak under a lake,” said Jeff Dale, an MRWA Circuit Rider. Circuit Riders are roving water experts that provide technical assistance to communities in their area. “Unfortunately, the pipe was HDPE, which doesn’t conduct sound. There’s not many ways to locate a leak under eight feet of water.”

Elysian planned to run a temporary water service line that would supply the subdivision water while the city laid a new water main to the peninsula.

“There’s no easy way to repair a broken pipe under eight feet of water,” Dale said.

While the city consulted with a engineers and contractors about the temporary service line, Dale assisted crews by locating where the water line entered the lake and emerged again on the peninsula. Dale’s line locating equipment found where the main entered the peninsula and revealed that there was no valve that could be used to isolate the broken line. The city had a contractor install a new valve to close both ends of the broken line.

Once the valve was installed, Elysian had a plan to run an eight-inch temporary line to the peninsula.

“The original plan was to run an eight-inch line from fire hydrant to fire hydrant,” Greenwald explained.

Running the eight-inch line would cost Elysian several thousand dollars and require several weeks to acquire materials.

“It would be a week or more for the contractor to get the eight-inch pipe,” Greenwald said. “We also needed to find fittings that would join the eight-inch to the fire hydrants.”

Dale examined the plan and started calculating if Elysian needed such a large main to supply the homes on the peninsula.

“He asked us some questions about our flow and pressure and ran some calculations,” Greenwald said.

After consulting with the Operations Specialist at a nearby utility, Dale concluded that Elysian could supply the subdivision with only a two-inch temporary line.

“I did some calculations and discussed it with Dominic Jones from Red Rock Rural Water,” Dale explained. “We were confident they could adequately supply that subdivision with a two-inch line.”

Using two-inch water line would save the community thousands of dollars and speed up the repair process.

“The contractor had plenty of two-inch line in his yard, and we wouldn’t need special fittings to connect to the hydrants,” Greenwald said. “The project went from a two-week to a one-day time frame.”

Elysian laid the two-inch temporary line along a bike path and connected to the nearest fire hydrant for the subdivision. The city switched to the temporary line without a disruption in service.

“The two-inch line worked great,” Dale said. “No one noticed a change.”

“It was a great idea,” Greenwald said. “He saved us thousands of dollars.”

With the temporary line in place, Elysian began working to repair the leaking main. During the work, they located the leak at a coupling that was much closer to shore. The pressure from the water main pushed the leaking water along the line and made it appear the leak was much farther into the lake. Elysian was able to make the repair without dewatering part of the lake or running a new main.

“Jeff helped us a lot,” Greenwald said. “He’s a great asset to small communities.”

Louisiana Rural Water Locates Mystery Leak Near Hospital, Saves Community Thousands in Repair Costs

WINNFIELD, La. – When a mystery leak started intruding into a drain pipe at the Winn Parish Medical Center in Winnfield, La., the community was faced with thousands of dollars in repair costs from digging around the hospital structures. Assistance from the Louisiana Rural Water Association helped located the leak under an open area of ground and save the community thousands in repairs.

“There was a leak near one of the drains next to the hospital emergency room,” said LRWA Circuit Rider David Ryals. “They had water running out of the drain onto the street.”

Because it was intruding into a drain pipe, the leak was extremely difficult to locate. Any potential repairs were complicated by proximity of the hospital. Most of the area was paved in concrete or covered by hospital structures.

“We didn’t know where to dig,” said Eugene Jones, the Public Works Director for the City of Winnfield. “We were about to break up all the concrete.”

Ryals had a creative solution to the problem. He had an inspection camera with a long cable that would fit into the drain.

“We normally use the camera to inspect sewer lines, but it would let us see what was happening inside the drain,” Ryals explained.

He ran the camera lead into the drain. Ryals saw the water leaking into the drain at a joint roughly 20 feet from where the drain emptied. It put the leak under one of the few areas on the property not covered in concrete or under a structure.

“I’ll never forget the look on their faces,” Ryals said.

With the leak located under open ground, city crews were able to dig up and repair the leak without costly damage to the surrounding pavement and structures.

“It was incredible,” Jones said. “LRWA’s staff and equipment saved us thousands of dollars.”

“The Louisiana Rural Water Association and its staff stands committed to assisting all water and wastewater systems with any problems they may incur,” said Patrick Credeur, LRWA Executive Director.

New Farm Bill is now law and Congress Agrees – Local Decisions are Best

The 2018 Farm Bill, also referred to as the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, passed with overwhelming bipartisan and bicameral support.  Congress recognized that local decision making for community water supplies is a necessary ingredient in determining their future.

With input on specific issues from a broad spectrum of organizations and entities, the Farm Bill process is complex. One of the contested issues was the sustainability of rural community water supplies around the nation.  Some entities, many times for self-serving purposes, promoted forced consolidation that were primarily directed at rural America.  The National Rural Water Association (NRWA) with over 31,000 members, has always supported consolidation when the decision is made at the local level after consideration of all options to enhance long term sustainability.

In addressing this issue within the Farm Bill, the following language, promoted by NRWA, was included in relation to sustainability issues within a rural or small water and/or wastewater facility:  ‘‘(iv) identify options to enhance the long-term sustainability of rural water and waste systems, including operational practices, revenue enhancements, partnerships, consolidation, regionalization, or contract services;”

This provision in the Farm Bill will allow the agency to support third- party entities without financial stake in the outcome to review all available financial and operations options to make a sound fiscal and policy decisions.  This will result in the best long-term interest of the community and their customers.  We applaud Congress and the President for supporting this effort.

NRWA STATEMENT ON ENACTING THE AGRICULTURE IMPROVEMENT ACT OF 2018

DUNCAN, Okla. –  The National Rural Water Association’s (NRWA) 31,000 water and wastewater system members applaud President Trump for signing H.R. 2, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 on December 20th, 2018. NRWA would also like to thank Chairman Roberts, Chairman Conaway, Ranking Member Stabenow, Ranking Member Peterson and their staffs for crafting this legislation that will directly benefit rural America.

Rural and small communities owe a great debt of gratitude to these agriculture champions for recognizing and supporting water infrastructure investments specifically targeted to communities with populations less than 10,000 persons. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Water and Wastewater loan and grant program will provide for the necessary resources to address critical rural water infrastructure projects. In addition, Circuit Rider technical assistance, grassroots source water protection and wastewater technical assistance will allow for uninterrupted water and sanitation service to water utilities in small and rural communities across the country. No community can prosper or be sustainable without reliable and affordable water and wastewater service.  With these federal investments, rural and small-towns across the country will be much stronger.

For over 70 years, Congress has authorized and strengthened USDA’s rural water initiatives which have made great advancements in the standard of living in rural America.  Small and rural communities primarily rely on the USDA’s Rural Development Water and Waste Water Programs as the affordable choice to finance their utilities. Most U.S. water utilities are small; over 91% of the country’s approximately 50,000 drinking water systems serve communities with fewer than 10,000 people and approximately 80% of the country’s 16,000 wastewater systems serve fewer than 10,000 people. The rural water infrastructure provisions included in HR 2 will continue to be the engine of economic development and agricultural-related advances in rural communities. We would like to thank the President and Congress for the specific provisions contained within the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 as follows:

  • Section 6402: Expands the eligibility to the Water and Waste Water Guaranteed Loan program to 50,000 population with priority for communities under 10,000. This change will provide an additional financial option for small and rural communities to upgrade, modernize and construct water and waste water facilities in areas that still experience limited access to credit.
  • Section 6403: Authorizes U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) rural water loans and grants which are essential to helping small and rural communities overcome the limited economies of scale and low median household incomes to provide safe and affordable drinking water and sanitation. The initiative funds construction and expansion of drinking water and wastewater infrastructure through grants and loans provided at reasonable rates and terms.  Without this assistance, many communities would not have the means to construct new water systems, expand existing systems, or comply with federal mandates.  Since 1940, USDA’s rural water program has invested over $55 billion in rural America.
  • Expansion of Section 6404: expands existing technical assistance to include providing local communities with long-term water infrastructure sustainability through intergovernmental partnerships, regionalization, and voluntary consolidation. Rural utilities will be able to receive third party independent financial and operational assessments necessary to present all options available for local decision makers to make sound financial and sustainable decisions for their utilities and their customers. Additional authority to target emerging contaminants of drinking and surface water supplies will preserve and enhance the health and vitality of these communities.
  • Section 6405: Authorizes primary technical assistance for local communities to operate safe and clean drinking water systems and helps to ensure compliance with current water regulations. Circuit riders are in the field every day helping small and rural communities with water system compliance, operations, maintenance, management, training and disaster response.  According to small and rural communities, this initiative is the most effective and efficient direct compliance assistance with the Safe Drinking Water Act and Clean Water Act.

NRWA commends Congress and the Administration for yet again providing dramatic improvements to the quality of life, the environment and public health in rural America. NRWA has a long-standing, productive and successful partnership with the US Department of Agriculture and looks forward continuing to work together to benefit rural America and its residents.

NRWA Opens Call for Abstracts for 2019 WaterPro Conference in Nashville, Tenn.

DUNCAN, Okla. – The National Rural Water Association has opened a call for abstracts for the 2019 WaterPro Conference, to be held September 9 – 11, 2019 at the Gaylord Opryland in Nashville, Tennessee.

NRWA is looking for experienced professionals and outstanding leaders to present on a wide variety of current challenges and opportunities for our attendees. Those interested in presenting on topics related to Workforce Development, Board Management and Leadership, Technological Innovations, Disaster Response and Recovery and/ or Sustainability and Partnerships can submit abstracts at www.waterproconference.org/call/.

All abstracts will be reviewed by Conference staff. Speakers may be contacted to ask for additional information on the presentations submitted. Speakers will be contacted about speaking opportunities if their presentation is selected.

Further details about the conference can be found at www.waterproconference.org.

Maine Rural Water Assists Community with Leak that Drains Half of Reservoir

DEXTER, Maine – Tom Crawford checked the Dexter reservoir in the morning and saw it had lost nearly half its water, and levels were dropping fast. Timely assistance from the Maine Rural Water Association helped locate a leak in an unknown water main and prevent the community from losing water.

Broken six-inch line.

“It was a real emergency,” explained Crawford, the Superintendent for the Dexter Utilities District. “Within four hours we lost over half a million gallons.”

Dexter utility workers tried to locate the leak on their own, but they didn’t have the necessary equipment. In some cases, they resorted to holding screwdrivers to fire hydrants to try to listen to leaks. There was no sign of water rising to the surface, which should occur with such a large water loss. That’s when they contacted MRWA for assistance.

“I had just arrived at a training class when Dexter called,” said Andy Gilson, an MRWA Circuit Rider. “They were in a panic because the reservoir was dropping like a rock.”

Gilson started using listening equipment to narrow down the location of the leak. He identified a general position for the leak, but Dexter officials didn’t know of any possible lines in the area.

“It happens all the time,” Gilson said. “There’s a lot of stuff that people put into the ground and no one recorded the location.”

Gilson used data loggers to trace potential locations for the leak. The loggers collect information such as noise or, in some cases, water pressure over time to locate potential leaks. The loggers narrowed the leak to a neighborhood near a stream, but utility personnel didn’t know of any other lines in the area. Gilson used a metal detector along the mapped water line and located a previously-unknown valve.

“There was a bump and as soon as I saw it I knew there was a v

Diverting the stream to make repairs to the broken main.

alve there,” Gilson said. “Frost had raised and lowered the valve and worked it to the surface. They didn’t have to dig far to uncover it.”

The valve connected to a six-inch line that lead toward a neighborhood across the stream.

“The system personnel knew the neighborhood was being served by a main from the other side, but they didn’t know there was a second main that crossed the stream,” Gilson said.

The Circuit Rider used a line locator to follow the main to another valve near the stream. He used that valve to isolate the main and confirm that the leak was somewhere under the stream. The repair required the utility to divert the stream and replace ten feet of main under the stream. It was a complicated process that required the cooperation of Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection.
Gilson’s assistance helped prevent Dexter from losing water and located a difficult leak.

“Andy is really good at what he does,” Crawford said. “He was a huge help to our community. I don’t know if I could have found it without him.”

Rural Water Teams Restore Water, Wastewater Service to Devastated Mexico Beach Florida

MEXICO BEACH, Fla. – When Phillip Hall drove into the Mexico Beach water plant and saw the water tower laying on the ground storage tank, he knew the city’s water system was significantly damaged.

“When I pulled into the yard and saw that tower down, I just knew,” said Hall, the Mexico Beach public works director. “The whole system was entirely inoperable.”

Rural Water staff install a hydrant valve to isolate a damaged main.

Mexico Beach was completely without power. Hurricane Michael leveled swaths of the city, and it’s estimated that 70% of the city’s structures will have to be demolished. Water main breaks made it impossible to restore service to some sections of the city. Several of the wastewater lift stations were damaged.

“Mexico Beach was essentially ground zero for the hurricane’s impact,” said Gary Williams, executive director of the Florida Rural Water Association. “There is Katrina-type devastation in places along the coast.”

Entire streets were washed away, complicating the relief efforts until crews could fill and patch the damaged roads. Even weeks after landfall, rural water still had to contend with rough, temporary fills and patches on Highway 98 with some side streets washed out and impassable.

“It took us a while to get in here because the roads were so damaged,” Williams said.

Assistance from Rural Water started to restore service to the devastated city.

“We’ve had some amazing people come help us,” Hall said.

Rural water crews repairing a damaged water line.

From the beginning, Rural Water was committed to a long-term relief effort.

“When I got here, I told them ‘Rural Water is all-in, and we’ll stay here until you don’t need us any more,’” Williams said.

Emergency generators from the Alabama Rural Water Association, Georgia Rural Water Association, Louisiana Rural Water Association and Florida Rural Water Association helped provide power to the treatment plants, master meters and lift stations. Some of the generators have operated continuously for over 10 days supplying power.

“We’ve had to service a lot of this equipment in the field,” Williams said. “Some of these generators have run for two weeks – they need things like oil and filters, and of course fuel.”

Once supplied with emergency power, rural water crews began assisting the city with the work of restoring water and wastewater services. The work effort included crews from the Rural Water Associations and over 300 utility workers from utilities across Florida.

“They shut off meters, repaired water lines and fixed lift station panels,” Hall said.

It was a massive effort that mobilized dozens of work crews to repair and replace significant damage.

Rural Water working around heavy machinery and damaged infrastructure to repair a water line.

“This has been a lot more than the typical response, which is generators and pumps,” Williams said. “This has been completely rebuilding the water and wastewater infrastructure, including laying new water and wastewater lines.”

It was a relief effort the city did not have the spare material or cash reserves to support. FRWA and the State Revolving Loan Fund committed to purchasing $120,000 of parts and material to help rebuild the system.

“When the work crews show up, they have to have something work with,” Williams said. “It’s a credit to the Florida Rural Water board of directors and membership, because without them we’d have nothing to bring to the table.”

Roughly 18 days since the hurricane made landfall, 60% of the city has its water restored and 75% of the lift stations are back online. The water plant is running on automated mode and the chlorination system is at 100%. It’s a significant achievement that would not be possible without Rural Water.

“What Rural Water is doing is invaluable to these communities,” Hall said. “We have 20 employees in public works. We could have gotten everything back eventually, but it would have taken months.”

Preparing to install a new valve and hydrant. The hurricane tore the previous hydrant completely from the ground.

The recovery was especially complicated because city workers were dealing with personal losses as well as city damage. Hall himself would take off work the next day to meet with insurance adjusters.

“All their employees came back after the storm, which shows a great dedication and commitment to the customers of Mexico Beach,” Williams said.

Rural Water’s effort has earned the praise of the Mexico Beach community.

“I cannot put into words how helpful Rural Water had been,” he said. “I’ve told all of them ‘helpful is just not kind enough.’”

For Williams, it is another example of the community of rural water systems and the power of systems aiding other systems.

“The Rural Water family pulled together, like they always do, to alleviate the suffering of the public,” he said.

Florida Rural Water Helps Rebuild Water and Wastewater Mains After Hurricane Destroys Infrastructure

PORT ST JOE, Fla. – Rows of broken, blue watermain pipe lay alongside the highway on Cape San Blas while crews dig trenches for new water and wastewater line. The storm surge from Hurricane Michael tore the water main for Lighthouse Utilities and the Port St. Joe wastewater collection system out of the ground, but assistance from the Florida Rural Water Association and neighboring utilities helped restore service to the cape.

“We were completely down,” said Matthew Pope, the Lighthouse Water System Operations Specialist. “The water tore out mains on the cape.”

Crews laying new water main.

The small Lighthouse Utilities serves a community of roughly 1,900 connections. The storm destroyed roughly hundreds of feet of water main, and the utility did not have the ability to replace it. Wastewater service on the cape is provided by Port St. Joe. Hundreds of feet of wastewater line and force main were exposed and pulled from the ground.

“There was over 3,500 feet of roadway, water and wastewater pipe damaged by the storm surge,” explained Scott Phillips, an FRWA wastewater training specialist.

Damage to roads and highways delayed relief until the Florida Department of Transportation could make temporary repairs. Once on-site, it was clear the water and wastewater infrastructure needed to be completely rebuilt.

“You could see hundreds of feet of pipe exposed,” Phillips said. “It was impossible to do anything else because there was no main.”

Highway repairs provided a further complication, because the DOT had yet to decide if the permanent highway repairs would go in to the same location or be rebuilt along a different path. Phillips recommended running a four-inch line across the surface to provide temporary water service until the route of the highway was determined and a permanent location of the water mains found. After meeting with the DOT and governor’s office, the state made a decision on the permanent location of the utilities.

Repairing water lines near newly-patched road.

“The governor requested the DOT survey the road,” Phillips said. “They decided to rebuild the highway along its current route.”

With the location decided, FRWA staff began organizing crews from neighboring utilities to start laying the new water and wastewater line. Boynton Beach, City of Cooper, Del Ray Beach, Escambia County Utility Authority, Port St. Joe, and Regional Utilities all contributes staff and equipment to help lay the new lines. FRWA helped supervise the effort and provided additional equipment like radios to coordinate traffic control.

The combined effort laid over 500 feet of water main, wastewater line and force main a day.

“We couldn’t have done it without Rural water,” Pope said. “We just don’t have the equipment.”

Once the main lines were replaced, FRWA began assisting the utilities restore service to the cape.

“When we got to where we could turn on some of the water, we started doing leak detection,” Phillips said.

FRWA staff also helped repair flooded control boxes on wastewater lift stations, helping bring the wastewater collections system back into operations.

Once Rural Water was able to access the area, the combined effort of FRWA and neighboring utilities was able to restore water and wastewater service to the majority of the cape in only a few days, despite having to replace the water and wastewater mains.

Florida Rural Water Restores Water and Wastewater Service in Wewahitchka after Hurricane

WEWAHITCHKA, Fla. – Hurricane Michael left the city of Wewahitchka, Fla. completely without water and wastewater service when it made landfall on October 10th. Assistance from the Florida Rural Water Association helped restore service to the damaged community.

“We were down and down hard,” said Michael Gortman, city administrator for Wewahitchka. “We had no power. We lost water out of our elevated storage tank.”

The hurricane damaged the roads in the area, delaying any assistance to the community.

“October 12th was the first day we could get in,” said Scott Phillips, an FRWA wastewater training technician. “All the highways in the area were closed until the Department of Transportation could make repairs.”

Once FRWA staff reached Wewahitchka, the first priority was to bring in emergency generators. Once the system had power, crews could begin working to make other repairs.

“They wanted to wait until they had a generator for each lift station, but I told them everybody needed generators,” Phillips explained. “I trained them to rotate the generators and pumps at the lift stations. You pump out the stations closest to the sewage plant and work out.”

Most wastewater collection systems rely on gravity, but in certain areas, the lack of elevation requires the system use a lift station to pump wastewater into the next part of the system. When these lift stations are not functioning, they can overflow into the environment or back up into homes. Emergency response often includes supplying these stations with emergency generators or with bypass pumps to maintain their function.

“The best thing is to get the stations operating as quickly as possible,” Phillips said. “The longer you wait the more wastewater builds up.”

The recovery efforts were also complicated by an ATV accident that injured several Wewahitchka city officials, including the mayor and fire chief.

“They had to be taken to the hospital,” Phillips said. “It certainly slowed things down.”

Once the system had emergency power, Rural Water began addressing other problems.

“They started doing leak detection, so we could make repairs and keep water pressure,” Gortman said.

Wewahitchka also started seeing grit and debris from the storm surge showing up at the sewage treatment plant.

“They were getting grit in their effluent, so we used one of our vacuum trucks to start cleaning debris out of the lift stations,” Phillips said.

FRWA soon had the Wewahitchka water and wastewater operating at normal, even if on emergency power. It was a feat that would be difficult without Rural Water’s assistance.

“They were miracle workers,” Gortman said. “They helped with a little bit of everything.”

 

USDA Awards $6 Million to Develop a National Apprenticeship Program

DUNCAN, Okla. — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently awarded a $6 million grant to NRWA for further development of its National Apprenticeship program. At the 2018 WaterPro Conference in Fort Worth, Texas, Edna Primrose, USDA Assistant Administrator for Rural Development’s Water and Environmental Programs, announced this award to NRWA for workforce development in the water industry that will assist in providing rural America with clean, reliable water resources.

During the USDA Outlook at the WaterPro Conference, Primrose expanded on the NRWA Apprenticeship programs. “Having a highly skilled workforce is a crux for sustainability…This (Apprenticeship program) is important. It’s critical. To have NRWA recognized as a premier training provider, premier operator and premier steward of rural water and wastewater systems will ensure the future of rural America.”

NRWA has prioritized developing a nationwide apprenticeship program to accelerate the process of hiring qualified water and wastewater workers and providing them an identifiable career path. NRWA is collaborating with state and local leaders to establish nationally-recognized and federally sanctioned Registered Apprenticeship programs.

Since its formal launch in 2017, 16 states have registered programs in the NRWA Apprenticeship program, and 12 states are currently working to establish the proper standards and programming to become registered.

With the new funding from USDA, NRWA will have the financial resources to help states develop their own Registered Apprenticeship program under the NRWA Guideline Standards.

Establishing an apprenticeship program for the water and wastewater industry is a massive undertaking and requires adaptation by states to meet their specific needs. NRWA plans to develop standardized forms, reporting templates and educational material to help states with a solid foundation to build upon for their own state-centric apprenticeship program.

The water sector is in the midst of a concentrated retirement bubble and is expected to lose between 30 and 50 percent of its workforce to retirement this decade. Many of the nation’s top water managers started their careers in these entry-level positions and spent a lifetime advancing their skills in a nonsystematic method. Over the past 30 years, the complexity of operating a water utility or wastewater system has increased dramatically.

In order to maintain the level of expertise and service that the public has become accustomed to, NRWA implemented this apprenticeship program to enhance the quality of life, create jobs and promote economic development opportunities in Rural America while improving water and wastewater infrastructure.

Currently, a typical new water worker comes from haphazard on-the-job training and classroom instruction primarily focused on differing state certification requirements. Many of these workers are considered as low-skilled and earn minimum wage.

This program will focus on technology and innovation to provide the next generation of water industry workforce with the knowledge and expertise they need to help ensure clean and safe water for their small communities and to maintain infrastructure necessary to keep their service areas economically viable.

The water industry is unique in that it involves the daily responsibilities of public health protection through the operations and maintenance of critical but unseen infrastructure.

“The apprenticeship program has presented those in our industry with a tremendously powerful tool to advance the level of expertise of critical to quality water,” stated Bryan Klein, general manager from Steuben Lakes Regional Waste District.

Apprenticeship is the most practical and efficient method to jumpstart a career in the water industry. The NRWA Guideline Standards will provide a systematic program and will establish a nationally-recognized credential that certifies proficiency for water workers in Rural America.

The proven earn-while-you-learn model of apprenticeship will enhance workforce participation and retention of water workers in small and rural communities. With student debt at a record high, programs like this present an appealing alternative to college degree programs, with a debt-free path to a well-paying career.

Like most apprenticeship or journeyman programs, the NRWA Apprenticeship Program provides hands-on experience and classroom education so that the apprentice may possibly become a water or wastewater system operations specialist immediately upon completion.

With this program, the public can rest assure that a safe, uninterrupted supply of water will continue, and sound decisions will be made concerning the health and safety in small and rural communities. By its very nature, the water industry places a high degree of personal responsibility and professional ethics on each individual. Like Catlyn Helmuth from Lagrange Utilities said when asked about his apprenticeship, “I’m so excited to start a career in the water/wastewater industry. I know this is forever for me, so I want to be the best.”

NRWA is also looking to attract military veterans or those transitioning out of active duty to this great opportunity for them to continue to serve their communities. According to USDOL, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 370,000 veterans were unemployed in 2017. Men and women who have served their country in the armed forces bring valuable skills and assets with an unyielding work ethic.

“Veterans would be a great resource to tap into for the water and wastewater industry for their attention to detail and instilled discipline. Many have learned the value of work ethic and completing a project correct the first time. My experience in the military taught me that trying to shortcut something generally has dire consequences,” said Randy Seida, manager of West Side Water Supply in Lansing, Michigan and a retired E-5 SGT with the 82nd Airborne Division, 313th Military Intel. “I find that working as a manager of a municipal water utility is similar to my time in the military. We are held accountable for countless lives daily and the smallest mistake can change everything. It takes hard work, discipline and focus in all weather conditions and various environments, sometimes with little to no sleep, to keep your mindset on the task at hand. The attention to detail engrained in service members, under pressure in various circumstances and conditions, is what our industry needs.”

In July 2017, the U.S. Department of Labor certified the NRWA Guideline Standards of Apprenticeship for Water and Wastewater System Operations Specialist which have been registered as part of the National Apprenticeship System in accordance with the standards established by the U.S. Secretary of Labor. These standards include a two-year program that consists of classroom training and on-the-job learning from seasoned water and wastewater professionals.

“This Apprenticeship Program will ensure a well-trained and capable water sector workforce to meet the increasing demands of the water industry,” stated NRWA CEO Sam Wade. “Advancements in water treatment and supply technology have increased the skills and training needed to protect public health and the environment. The program will ensure we have a skilled and educated workforce we need well into the future.”