NRWA Appreciates the Beneficial Water Provisions in the “America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018”

DUNCAN, Okla. – On Wednesday, October 10, 2018, the Senate passed the bipartisan and bicameral comprehensive water resources infrastructure legislative package. The National Rural Water Association is appreciative of the very helpful and beneficial water-related provisions for rural and small communities in “America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018” and urges President Trump to sign the bill.

The legislation makes significant improvements and modifications to the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act.

“Thank you, Senator Barrasso for consistently listening to and helping rural and small communities and sponsoring the ‘American’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018.’ Rural America is very appreciative for the help. Small and rural communities have more difficulty affording public wastewater service due to lack of population density and lack of economies of scale,” stated Mark Pepper, Executive Director of Wyoming Association of Rural Water Systems. “Likewise, we have a much more challenging time complying with our federal Clean Water Act permits and operating complex wastewater treatment systems due to the lack of technical resources in small communities. This bill provides a solution to the lack of technical resources in small communities by providing technical experts, we call them Circuit Riders, in each state to be shared by all small and rural communities who are in need of assistance. A Circuit Rider is a person with expertise in wastewater treatment operation, maintenance, governance and compliance who constantly travels the state to be available on-site to any community in need of assistance.”

Most U.S. water utilities are small; over 91 percent of the country’s approximately 50,000 drinking water systems serve communities with fewer than 10,000 people and approximately 80 percent of the country’s 14,500 plus wastewater systems serve fewer than 10,000 people.

Pepper continued his gratitude for Senator’s Barrasso’s legislation by acknowledging the significant improvements and modifications to the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act that will be very beneficial to small and rural communities in Wyoming and every other state.

The legislation addresses priority small and rural community water issues with the following provisions:
• Section 4103, Technical Assistance for Treatment Works: This provision includes a version of Senator Wicker and Heitkamp’s “Small and Rural Community Clean Water Technical Assistance Act” which would establish a federal Clean Water Act technical assistance program administered to assist small public wastewater treatment systems in complying with EPA regulations. Small and rural communities have more difficulty affording public wastewater service due to lack of population density and lack of economies of scale. Likewise, they have a much more challenging time complying with our federal Clean Water Act permits and operating complex wastewater treatment systems due to the lack of technical resources in small communities. This bill provides a solution to this lack of technical resources in small communities by providing technical experts (known as Circuit Riders) in each state to be shared by all small and rural communities in need of assistance. A Circuit Rider is a person with expertise in wastewater treatment operation, maintenance, governance and compliance who constantly travels the state to be available on-site to any community that needs help.

• Section 4201, WIFIA Reauthorization and Innovative Financing for State Loan Funds: This provision includes a version of the “Securing Required Funding for Water Infrastructure Now (SRF WIN) Act” sponsored by Senators Boozman (AR), Booker (NJ), Inhofe (OK) and Feinstein (D-CA) which improves the current Water Infrastructure and Finance Innovation Act (WIFIA) by extending WIFIA-type authorities to your state revolving loan funds (SRFs). State SRFs are preferred to the status quo WIFIA program because the SRFs, by statute, target federal water funding to communities with the most need or merit (i.e. the combination of compliance burden, water rates, and local consumers’ ability to pay for the projects) and allow states to choose projects that meet state-determined needs. All sizes of communities are eligible for SRF funding.

• Title II, Drinking Water System Improvement: This title is a version of the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee’s Safe Drinking Water Act reauthorization, H.R. 3387 (Drinking Water System Improvement Act of 2017). Enhancing drinking water quality in small communities is more of a resource issue than a regulatory problem. Most small community non-compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act and Clean Water Act can be quickly remedied by on-site technical assistance and education. This title improves the current SDWA by targeting funding to disadvantaged communities and small communities with minimum set-asides, and prioritization of projects with the greatest environmental and economic need. Moreover, it extends maximum loan duration up to 40 years. The bill also increases to 35 percent of the amount of additional subsidization to include forgiveness of principal that can be used in disadvantaged communities. Commonly, low income or disadvantaged communities do not have the ability to pay back a loan, even with very low interest rates, and require some portion of grant or principal forgiveness funding to make a project affordable to the ratepayers. Very importantly, the title includes no additional regulatory burden or new unfunded mandates on small and rural communities. In the consolidation provisions, the bill reflects NRWA’s “Fletcher” principle that local communities (governments) should retain authority to choose when to merge, consolidate or enter into any type of privatization arrangement. The principle was articulated by NRWA President Steve Fletcher on May 19, 2017 during the House Subcommittee on Environment hearing regarding the legislation.

• Section 4304, Water Infrastructure and Workforce Investment: New federal attention and emphasis on water workforce development is proposed in this section. It takes more than 380,000 highly skilled water and wastewater personnel to ensure the public supply of safe drinking water and to protect our lakes, streams and groundwater. A college degree is of value but is not required. This career does require a great deal of training and experience. The apprenticeship model would be a welcome enterprise for the water worker universe.

NRWA is very appreciative that the legislation includes numerous substantive and necessary drinking water and clean water provisions that make “America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018” a comprehensive and beneficial water legislative package for the country.

Rural Water Prepared to Assist Utilities After Hurricane Michael Makes Landfall

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – When Hurricane Michael made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane and the most powerful storm to hit the continental United States in 14 years, emergency responders from the Florida Rural Water Association and Georgia Rural Water Association had already staged personnel and equipment to restore water service after landfall.

Both the Florida and Georgia Rural Water Associations are extensively-trained in rapid response and recovery operations, including recent hands-on training with emergency equipment hosted in Georgia last year. Both state associations are also leaders in their state Water/Wastewater Agency Response Networks, FlaWARN and GAWARN, mutual support networks that allow water and wastewater utilities to share resources during emergencies.

“FRWA and GRWA equipment is being staged near the predicted impact zone,” Gary Williams, FRWA executive director said on Wednesday before landfall.

Staged equipment included more than 20 large generators, 10 small generators, two 6-inch bypass pumps, three four-inch trash pumps, and trailers equipped with tools, radio and satellite communications. All the rural water equipment is equipped with GPS locators to improve management and prevent theft.

“We worked the phones yesterday contacting systems in regard to generator need and reminding system operations specialists to secure their chemicals,” said Jimmy Matthews, GRWA executive director.

Rural Water staff began contacting utilities in the storm’s projected path, alerting them to the potential danger, advising on preparations, and informing them of the emergency response services available after the storm. These preliminary contacts also allowed Rural Water to update contact information and catalog critical utility information like electricity demand, storage capacity and the size of pumps – information that allows Rural Water to quickly deliver necessary equipment where it is most needed.

Once it is safe to move into the impacted areas, Rural Water personnel will make daily assessments of impacted water systems.

Power is the primary concern, and Rural Water maintains a full inventory of generators to supply emergency power.

“Fuel could become a concern if power remains off for a couple of days,” Williams said.

The high wind and water can also damage infrastructure and wash out water lines.

“These wind projections give us concerns about water towers and cell towers,” Matthews said. “Maintaining water pressure at nursing homes and hospitals will be a major priority.”

These are problems that Rural Water has faced with past emergencies.

“The water industry has demonstrated great resiliency, preparedness and response,” Williams said.

 

Watson Elected NRWA President; Directors Voted to Executive Board

Ft. Worth, Texas – Kent Watson of Texas was elected President of the National Rural Water Association (NRWA) at the 2018 WaterPro Conference in Fort Worth, Texas.

Watson will lead the Executive Board that includes Senior Vice President David Baird of Delaware, Vice President John O’Connell, III of New York, Secretary Glen Womack of Louisiana, Treasurer Phillip Combs of Tennessee, Immediate Past President Steve Fletcher of Illinois, and Board Members Chris Kenyon of Michigan, David J. Peterson of Kentucky and Pat Williams of California.

“This is the pinnacle of a career that started about 40 years ago in the water and wastewater industry,” said Watson as he was surrounded by his closest friends and family during his inaugural luncheon.

Watson has worked for the Wickson Creek Special Utility District in Bryan, Texas for 31 years and serves as the General Manager. The District supplies water to more than 7,000 customers in an area of approximately 750 square miles in portions of Brazos, Grimes and Robertson Counties. He was elected to the NRWA Board of Directors in 2008.

In addition to his work in rural water, he serves as the Brazos Valley Groundwater District Director and Deacon at Bethan Baptist Church.

Kent Watson will serve as president of NRWA for the next two years, the nation’s largest water utility association with over 31,000 members. He will be one of the voices representing Rural Water at industry events, with government agencies and in the halls of Congress.

“I pledge to represent this great organization with the integrity and professionalism you’ve come to expect,” he addressed conference attendees. “I will need your help and I will help you. This will be a common goal to better the water and wastewater industry across these great United States.”

Fletcher Named 2018 NRWA Man of the Year

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

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

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

NRWA Seeks Feedback to Help Plan Future Conferences

DUNCAN, Okla. – After a successful WaterPro Conference in Fort Worth, Texas, the National Rural Water Association is seeking feedback from anyone who did or did not attend the 2018 WaterPro Conference. This information will be used to help produce the best experience at future conferences, including the 2019 WaterPro Conference to be held Sept. 9-11 in Nashville, Tenn.

Click Here to take the Survey.

Updates for the 2019 conference will be delivered regularly to subscribers of the WaterPro Info Update.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The National Rural Water Association Opens the 2018 WaterPro Conference

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rural Water Prepares for Hurricane Impact along the Southeastern US

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Projections of Florence Landfall