Photo of Rural Utility Worker Goes Viral


HOOD COUNTY, Texas – The photo of a rural utility worker submerged upside-down in a muddy puddle has gone viral. A USA Today article reports that within two hours of the photo’s original posting on Facebook, it was receiving comments from Brazil.

The picture shows 23-year-old Jimmie Cox, an employee of Acton Municipal Utility District, submerged down to his waist in a five-foot hole. Cox was trying to clamp a break in a one-inch pipe.
“I wasn’t even able to get the clampers, so we had to cut it and put a valve on there when it was underwater,” Cox told USA Today.

The Acton Utility serves roughly 7,000 homes in subdivisions, individual residences and undeveloped agricultural lands surrounding the southern portion of Lake Granbury and along the Brazos River. AMUD is a member of the Texas Rural Water Association and the National Rural Water Association.

While the photo has gained world-wide attention, Cox says that kind of effort is common in rural water.

“In this line of work, people do it a lot,” he said.


Rural Water Responds to Massive Floods in Louisiana

Albany - Operator Pics (3)KINDER, La. – The Louisiana Rural Water Association has been assisting small utilities reeling from historic flooding that covered 20 parishes, damaged over 60,000 homes, caused the evacuation of over 20,000 residents and kept 265,000 children out of school.

“The devastation is comparable to the Katrina and Rita Hurricanes but without the winds and the storm surges,” said Pat Credeur, LRWA executive director. “In some areas, the 500-year-old flood stage has already been exceeded.”

The flooding began around August 12 after a “no-name” storm dropped three times as much rain on Louisiana as Hurricane Katrina – estimated to be over 7.1 trillion gallons of water. Heavy flooding shut down roads and disrupted communication.

“Most roads were impassable, so we had to call the utilities to find out their needs,” Credeur said.

Immediately after the floods, LRWA was working with 86 water utilities on flood-related boil orders. Their early work focused on contacting systems and assessing their status and any problems. Once the flood water receded and roads reopened, LRWA sent a surge of two-person teams into the flooded areas to make on-site inspections and make initial repairs.

The results were impressive.

2016_Louisiana_floods_map_of_parishes_declared_federal_disaster_areasLouisiana Rural Water staff visited 25 systems impacted by the flood and the number of systems on boil order dropped rapidly.

“On Tuesday, there were approximately 86 systems under flood-related boil advisory. By Friday, that number dropped to 59,” Credeur said.

Systems suffered from a variety of problems, from water-damaged electric components to contaminated wells. Some systems has pumps and motors under water, or pipes and valves damaged by flood debris. Another system was damaged by a lightning strike.

“The water systems were quickly being brought up to standard; however, it was the wastewater systems that have been most affected,” Credeur said. “The wastewater problems were commonly with the lift stations, and those ranged from burnt motors to control panels.”

Other wastewater systems suffered from overflows or damaged grinder pumps.

Despite floods that rivals Hurricanes Rita and Katrina, many of the impacted utilities have been better prepared this time.

“After Rita and Katrina, a lot of utilities didn’t have emergency plans,” Credeur said. “They didn’t have the equipment they needed to respond. There was a lot of chaos.”

One of LRWA’s responses to those hurricanes was to offer regular rapid response and recovery training throughout the state. This training focuses on the full range disaster preparation, including planning, equipment, incident response, reporting and reimbursement. They also established the Louisiana Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network, which is a mutual support and assistance network that allows utilities to share resources and coordinate their efforts in times of emergency.

Sorento 6These investments have improved the utility response to these floods.

“The utilities are much more prepared this time,” Credeur said. “We had several systems that were able get back into compliance with a small amount of assistance.”

By August 24, LaWARN had been activated and assistance was focused on areas where the flood water was just beginning to recede.

“We have some areas were water is still affecting utilities and transportation,” Credeur said. “It’s impacting schools, apartment complexes and other small businesses.”

LRWA continues assisting 25 systems a day, providing assistance to bring them back into compliance. A number of the utilities have made repairs and are waiting on water sample testing before they can lift their boil orders.

“We will continue to work with these systems,” Credeur said. “This is going to be an on-going effort.”

Navigating the Revised Total Coliform Rule: 2 p.m. CST Sept. 28

Navigating the Revised Total Coliform Rule: 2 p.m. CST Sept. 28  Click Here to Register

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency  published the Revised Total Coliform Rule in the Federal Register on February 13, 2013 – 78 FR 10269. All public water systems must comply with the requirements of the rule starting April 1. The RTCR addresses fecal contamination through routine monitoring for total coliforms and E. coli, level 1 and Level 2 assessments, and corrective actions if the PWS identifies a vulnerability to coliform contamination. This webinar will focus on field scenarios to better understand primacy agency implementation discretion and public water systems  compliance with: Multiple level 1 and level 2 treatment technique triggers in a month; Resetting the second level 1 treatment technique trigger  to a level 1 assessment; and “Expedited” actions as applied to E. coli events vs. non-E. coli events. The presenter will also address other areas of RTCR implementation discretion and PWS requirements.

Presented by Cindy Y. Mack, RTCR Rule Manager, US EPA Office of Water

Destin Donates Generators; Supports FRWA Rapid Response and Recovery

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Heavy storms and flooding left several small water utilities in need of assistance. When the Florida Rural Water Association responded, they had three extra generators, thanks to the support of a larger utility.

Destin Water Users, which serves the popular vacation destination of Florida’s Emerald Coast, donated three generators to FRWA and to FlaWARN, Florida’s Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network, for systems in need. The donation includes one 100kw and two 60kw trailer-pulled Cummins generators.

“FRWA truly appreciates Destin Water Users leadership and generosity,” said FRWA Executive Director Gary Williams. “Generators of this size cost up to $100,000 new.”

The three generators are used but still functioning. Even with some repairs and maintenance, the generators represent a generous contribution from Destin.

“They had options to sell or surplus the generators,” Williams said. “But they chose to donate them for use by water and wastewater systems in need and often without vast resources.”

In addition to emergency use, FRWA and FlaWARN sells generators to systems when their emergency generators fail.

“FRWA sells our generators to needy systems for the amount we have invested in them or less,” Williams explained. “It ensures the public health and environment for that community are protected when they don’t have the money for a new back-up generator.”

FRWA plans to have the donated generators repainted and include signage that indicates they were donated by Destin Water Users. Williams said the signage was another show of appreciation to Destin and he hoped it would encourage other larger systems to assist small utilities.

South Carolina Rural Water Assists Short-Handed Utility

LORIS, S. C. – When the long-time city administrator and city clerk of Loris, S.C. retired, the small town of 2,400 the public water system was left with no experienced city officials to manage the utility. They contacted the South Carolina Rural Water Association to assist in putting procedures in place and getting the staff appropriately trained.

The problem in Loris is common to small towns and rural water districts. Small systems with tight budgets often cannot afford a large staff that can withstand several employee departures. Loris was left with several workers in temporary positions, none of them with experience maintaining a water system.

Jesse Miller, an SCRWA circuit rider, arrived at Loris and began reviewing the utility’s needs.

“I prepared some written compliance programs for the city,” Miller said. “We spent the day reviewing each program and discussing how each program related to properly operating a public water system.”

The written procedures included programs for cross connection control, distributing system flushing, hydrant maintenance, valve maintenance and leak detection. Even with the programs, Loris still needed a licensed system operations specialist to legally operate their utility. At the time, neither of the public works employees had the appropriate license.

“I explained the licensing process and helped them complete the application forms,” Miller said.

Miller also contacted a contract operations specialist to could operate the system until the staff could complete their licenses. The system requested continued assistance and Miller made an appointment to return in two weeks before he left.

“I’ll return and continue to offer any assistance to keep the system operating appropriately,” Miller said.

Nevada Rural Water Assists Tribe with Automation Problems

SCHURZ, Nev. – When the Walker River Paiute Tribe’s water system was shutting down with an unexplained high pressure alarm, Nevada Rural Water Association’s Ryan Kolda came to assist.

Kolda made contact with Leroy Hicks, the system operations specialist, and they began trying to find the cause of the high pressure alarm.

“Leroy and I reviewed the SCADA logs and determined the error was related to either a mercoid switch or a pressure gauge,” Kolda explained. Many water systems use Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition systems to automate various treatment functions.

They contacted the manufacturers to get more information on the pressure gauge.

“They recommended that we clean the lines leading to the pressure gauge,” Kolda said.

After researching the disassembly and cleaning of the device, the pair removed and cleaned the gauge, but found no obstructions.

“This would need more trouble shooting,” Kolda said.

With the system still shutting down with the pressure error, Kolda returned for another visit. Further troubleshooting revealed a malfunctioning transducer on one of the wells, preventing that well from being utilized. Kolda recommended the system make plans to replace the sensors, and made adjustments to the automation to prevent the high pressure events.

“We adjusted the SCADA to shut off the wells when the valves closed,” he explained. “That eliminated the high pressure issues.”

The small changes to the automation prevented the water plant from shutting down and saved the community several thousand dollars.

USDA Launches Uplift America Partnership

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representatives from National Rural Water Association recently attended the launch of Uplift America, a new USDA partnership designed to increase investment in the nation’s poorest rural communities.

Uplift America is a new public-private partnership that aims to boost investment in poor, rural communities to improve employment, education, health and housing. Uplift America will offer a combination of low-interest loans, grants and loan guarantees to community lenders and Community Development Financial Institutions.

“Uplift America is an innovative approach that holds the potential for greatly increasing investment in rural communities that need it most,” Lisa Mensah, Under Secretary of USDA Rural Development, said in a release.

A central part Uplift America is an amendment to the USDA’s Community Facilities Direct Loan program that allows Community Development Financial Institutions to apply for low-cost, long-term loans. CDFIs are private financial institutions that provide financial services to individuals, non-profits and small business for the purpose of improving their communities. Uplift America will provide additional capital to these institutions and their community improvement programs.

Uplift America also offers loan guarantees that cover interest and principal payments for the first five years on the loans from the USDA.

The USDA is already directing up to $500 million for loans for CDFIs so they can re-lend the money to support community programs and infrastructure. The Community Facilities Direct Loan program currently offers loans at 2.75% interest for terms up to 40 years.

“These long term, low-cost loans may be used to finance health centers, school buildings and other infrastructure in rural areas experiencing high levels of poverty and decades of disinvestment,” Mensah said.

More information is available at

Comprehensive Water Audits: 2 p.m. CST Aug. 18

Comprehensive Water Audits: 2 p.m. CST Aug. 18 Click Here to Register

Learn the difference between a basic water audit and a comprehensive water audit so that your system can best manage its resources. We will discuss all forms of non-revenue water including leaks, stolen water, meter accuracy, flushing, city uses, fire suppression, and distribution maintenance and how they affect your system.

Presented by Don Van Veldhuizen, USABlueBook senior technical support representative/technical training manager. Veldhuizen has been in the water and wastewater field for 30 years in various roles from operations, management, consulting and research. He advises and provides trainings for numerous water and wastewater systems throughout the United States and overseas. He holds certifications in both water and wastewater.

NRWA adds Lifestyle Health Plans and IRIS Public Notification to Advantage Programs

DUNCAN, Okla. – The National Rural Water Association has added two new WaterPro Advantage programs for the benefit of NRWA and state association members. The first is Lifestyle Health Plans, which offer customized health solutions designed to improve employee health and wellness.

“One of the most common requests we receive is for affordable health insurance options,” said Sam Wade, NRWA CEO. “We are excited to announce the addition of Lifestyle Health Plans which offers unique health benefits designed to address the underlying causes of the rise in health care cost for both the employer and employee.  While not applicable to every system, it is an alternative for systems to address the cost and coverage offered to their employees.”

The second is Immediate Response Information System, a public notification system that includes text-messaging and recorded voice options.

“Notifying customers is a critical part of managing a utility,” Wade said. “This new system gives utilities the power to communicate with their customers through both voice and digital technology.”

These two new services join a growing list of WaterPro Advantage programs designed exclusively for rural and small water utilities. Contract your State Rural Water Association, visit or call 1-800-545-1054.

Rural Water Loan Assists Waterwood with Wastewater Renovation

waterwoodYALAHA, Fla. – The Waterwood Community Association’s wastewater plant had been in operation for 32 years, and needed complete renovation to meet current regulatory standards. The community of 128 homes turned to the Rural Water Loan Fund to get quick, easy access to the financing needed to complete to the project.

“It’s a 34-year-old community and we have some things that need to be replaced,” said Hal Perry, chairman of the Waterwood finance committee.

Waterwood is a small self-managed community in Yalaha, Fla. that manages its own streets, water and sewer. The community began saving funds for the renovation in 2013, but still needed financing to complete the project. They made contact with the Florida Rural Water Association, and the state association connected them with the Rural Water Loan Fund.

The Rural Water Loan Fund is a National Rural Water Association funding program specifically designed to meet the unique needs of small water and wastewater utilities. The RWLF provides low-cost loans for short-term repair costs, small capital projects, or pre-development costs associated with larger projects. It’s the perfect program for projects like Waterwood’s renovation.

“This action will allow our community to move forward, as scheduled, with complete renovation of our wastewater treatment plant,” Perry said in a letter.

FRWA assisted Waterwood with beginning the application process. Perry, who has over 40 years of experience in banking, found the process extremely fast and simple.

“The whole process took less than three weeks,” Perry said. “I can’t praise the organization enough for how easy and quick the process was.

Part of the easy of the process was the support of NRWA and FRWA staff.

”The cooperation of the staff was outstanding,” Perry said. “I would like to give a big thank you for Gloria York for her outstanding customer service: from start to finish, she was a great coach every step of the way.”

The process was so fast and easy, that the community is planning on using the RWLF for other future projects.

“We have a lot that needs to be replaced,” Perry said. “Hopefully we can pay off this loan faster than the ten-year term and we can use the program again.”

The speed and quality of the program was enough for Perry to recommend the RWLF to other utilities looking to finance their projects.

“I would highly recommend the program to other communities,” he said.

“In closing, this entire application process with NRWA has been an excellent experience and going forward, no one will convince me that the association can’t move swiftly through any process,” Perry added.