Mount Zion, W. Va. – Mount Zion had every chance to fail. The small West Virginia community was losing water to an improperly-installed distribution system, buried under old debt, and under investigation by the Public Service Commission. Instead of failing, though, Mount Zion is progressing toward financial stability and utility sustainability with assistance from the West Virginia Rural Water Association.
“It’s been really nice to see someone there who wants to do a good job and run a good utility,” said Amy Swann, Executive Director of WVRWA.
Patty Cottrell is Mount Zion’s system operations specialist, and she has been the motivation for the utility’s progress. Cottrell has taken advantage of rural water training and resources to start making the necessary improvements to the utility. The Effective Utility Management workshop provided direction and motivation that galvanized her efforts at the utility.
“She got a lot out of the group work, where you’re talking to other systems and realize that others have the same issues,” explained Swann. “The workshop helped her focus on what she needed to do.”
“I was on the road to some of the activities mentioned at the workshop, so it really encouraged me,” Cottrell said.
“She really seemed to seize the day,” Swann added.
Cottrell began by doing an assessment and review with the utility board, the county commissioners, employees and customers. The review helped identify the problems to be addressed and created the necessary support to make the necessary improvements.
“It was a great move,” Swann said. “I think it was really important to get the board and the county commissioners behind the plan.”
Mount Zion’s primary problem is water loss. The system buys water from another utility, which means that any water lost is an expensive product wasted.
“Unaccounted for water is a big problem,” Swann said.
The EUM training helped identify the problem and rural water is providing resources to ensure the issues are corrected.
“Rural water has provided man power to help us isolate sections of the system and check for leaks,” Cottrell explained.
The utility has also started working to address long-term financial problems.
“Mount Zion has been working through financial issues for quite some time,” Cottrell said.
“The district is catching up on old debt,” Swann explained. “For a long time they just didn’t have the money to pay their bills.”
The utility is also making progress in improving compliance and office procedures.
“Patty has been working with the Public Service Commission to ensure they comply with the appropriate rules,” Swann said. “They’re working to make sure they use the proper forms for starting and stopping service and for putting customers on a payment plan.”
Cottrell still has a great deal of work ahead to bring Mount Zion into sustainability, but she will have the resources of rural water available to make progress.
“We’re looking ahead at the next step,” Swann said.
“I feel like every resource rural water has is available to me, allowing us to maximize the value for our customers,” Cottrell said.
DUNCAN, Okla. – The NRWA is hosting a new event to assist water districts. The Water District Finance and Regulatory Issues Forum will be held on June 2-3, 2015 in Washington, D.C.
This forum is designed to identify the challenges facing water districts, their potential solutions and available resources as well as educate agency officials about district operations.
Formed in the early 60s, Rural Water Districts, have grown to become major participants in the protection of public health and of drinking water sources. They are a foundation of the rural economy. When many RWD were formed the sparsely populated sections of the nation were their primary service areas. Today, in many locations, these once rural areas are now urbanized and/or have merged smaller systems into their operations to provide sustainability of service to rural citizens. The make-up of large service areas, miles of pipe that transcends multiple counties, and the funding and regulatory structures designed primarily for municipal operations, now present unique funding and regulatory challenges for rural districts.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Easthampton Water Department from Easthampton, Mass. won the gold medal for best tasting water and the 16th annual Great American Water Taste Test, held as part of the Rural Water Rally on February 11th in Washington, D.C.
“I’m really proud of this,” Tom Newton, supervisor of Easthampton Water Works, told ABC News. “I’ve put 40 years of my life into this. I’m retiring this year. This is the victory lap.”
Newton says the water’s exceptional taste comes from its Ph.
“It’s very crisp,” he said. “It takes very little treatment.”
Easthampton water completed against water samples from across the nation in the areas of clarity, bouquet, and taste. Each state rural water association holds a drinking water taste test from among their members, and the winners of those competitions are eligible for the national taste test. Rogerson Water District from Buhl, Idaho won the silver award and City of Whittier, Alaska won bronze. Del Paso Manor Water District from Sacramento, Cal. and Francis City, Utah were the other five finalists.
The five finalists were selected from a preliminary round of tasting. A panel of special guest judges then selected the winners from the five finalists. This year’s guest judges included Jasper Schneider, acting administrator of the Rural Utilities Service, Chris Heggem, director of Coalition & Outreach for the House Ag Committee, and Daniel Ulmer, legislative assistant for Senator Thad Cochran.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Rural Water Association opened the 2015 Rural Water Rally on February 10th with a ceremony that included speeches from NRWA President Charles Hilton, Congressman Robert Aderholt, and USDA Undersecretary of Rural Development Lisa Mensah.
Hilton, the NRWA President from South Carolina, began the rally by reminding the crowd about the power of association. As the nation grows, it has become a challenge for elected officials to maintain the close relationships they have with their constituents. By joining their voices in an association affords rural Americans a way to ensure their views are still heard and their needs still represented.
“We have associations in all 50 states,” Hilton said. “Never doubt the power of that.”
He also reminded the crowd of water professionals, that their work is the primary strength of the association.
“The National Rural Water Association is just a name without you,” Hilton said to the audience. “Your grassroots efforts and work in the field are what gives that name power.”
Congressman Aderholt from Alabama spoke about rural water driving rural economies.
“It’s something I have seen first-hand,” he said.
The congressman also detailed the programs and appropriations that have assisted rural communities and the future of those programs.
Undersecretary Mensah detailed how impressed she has been with rural water in her short time with rural utilities. She also sees President Hilton’s own water system, Breezy Hill Water & Sewer Company, as an example of USDA and rural water working together to benefit small communities.
“Just think, five people were able to get a loan that allowed them to bring water to an area of South Carolina, where there was none before,” she said. “What started as just 297 taps has grown into over 5,500 customers.”
After the opening session, water professionals from across the nation went to meet their Senators and Congressmen.
ASHLAND, Neb. – The City of Ashland, Neb. has been looking for ways to save money and improve the function of their water utility. Now, with the help of the Nebraska Rural Water Association, the system started to progress toward their goals.
“The training has reinforced what we were trying to do,” said Bill Torpy, Ashland public utility director. “It has added structure to what we were trying to do before and given us some direction on how to achieve our goals.”
Torpy and his assistant, Rob Josoff, attended an Effective Utility Management session that Patrick Peterson presented in Wahoo, Neb. Ashland, a city of 2,400 between Omaha and Lincoln, has actively pursued ways to save money and electricity in their water and wastewater operations.
“We’re very energy conscious, despite the cost of electricity being very-reasonably priced in this part of the world,” Torpy said.
One of the major concerns is the city’s wastewater facility. The system relies on a screening process to eliminate sludge from wastewater, but it has been largely ineffective.
“It takes 30,000 gallons of water to run the screening process, and a lot of sludge remains,” Torpy explained. “We’re hauling off the remaining slurry in a tractor to some city-owned farmable land so it can be incorporated into the soil.
“Every step of the process is costing us money.”
Ashland has plans to move to a reed bed system to absorb the wastewater. The plan has support, but it will be nearly a year before they can begin work.
“The budgeting process here starts in October and the class was in October,” Peterson explained. “It’s still very early in the process for the wastewater plans, but they are already starting to see some benefits from their new VFDs.”
Torpy was able to use earlier commitments to purchase Variable Frequency Drive systems for several pumps in the water utility. These VFDs adjust the amount of electricity used to drive pumps, saving electricity by matching the level of energy to the amount of work required.
“We’re starting to realize some cost savings and we’re even seeing less breakage in the distribution system,” Torpy said. “It looks like the soft start of the VFDs is creating less hydraulic pressure and reducing the strain on the pipes.”
Ashland plans to expand use of VFDs to all aspects of their utility. In addition to the wastewater changes, the city also plans to replace aging water mains. Many of those plans will be aided by the city’s relationship with rural water.
“We find Nebraska Rural Water very helpful in many ways,” Torpy said. “They provide great training and they’re a real go-to resource for us.”
WASHINGTON, D.C. – National Rural Water Association President Charles Hilton spoke during a celebration of the 40th Anniversary of the Safe Drinking Water Act held on Dec. 9th at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The event was hosted by a collection of water organizations, including the American Water Works Association, the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators, the National Association of Water Companies, and the National Rural Water Association.
“I was in the industry when both the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act were implemented. I have experienced events that have profound effects on the health and safety of millions of Americans every day now and in the future, while both restoring and protecting our most precious resource, our water,” said Hilton, who is the general manager of the Breezy Hill Water and Sewer Company in South Carolina.
The Safe Drinking Water Act was enacted in 1974 as a means to ensure safe drinking water for the public. While many states had drinking water regulations, the SDWA was the first time the federal government had a way to create enforceable, nation-wide drinking water standards.
“In his signing statement of the 1974 Safe Drinking Water Act, President Gerald Ford emphasized the most important precept of the Act for it to be judged successful;,” Hilton said. “That precept was the idea of a partnership: a partnership beginning here in our nation’s capital, intermeshed with our 50 state governments, and ending in a place called Breezy Hill Water District that I manage – a partnership between the local community, state government, and finally the federal government.”
In many ways, the SDWA act lead to the creation of the National Rural Water Association. After the act, small water systems were faced with national standards that they often lacked the resources to meet, so they started forming associations with the goal of providing the necessary funding, training, and technical assistance to comply with the new regulations.
“The National Rural Water Association represents 30,000 of these small local communities,” Hilton said. “Some are so small they are both governed and operated by unpaid volunteers. Some are large enough to have professionals who lead the industry in technical, operational, and managerial skills. But all 30,000 are committed to one end goal – they exist to protect the health of their respective communities by providing the safest water possible.”
In the 40 years since the law’s creation, the challenges have changed and grown more complex.
“Originally, I had written the remark that for the truly small systems, and even for systems the size of my system, our challenges are enormous,” Hilton said. “But while true, I immediately realized that every water system in our nation is equally challenged, some simply have more resources, but all are faced with the same problems. Forty years ago preparedness meant having a repair clamp for every size of pipe in your system. Today we still have to have that clamp, but that is the easy part. The difficult problems are facing the Hurricane Katrinas and Superstorm Sandys; facing the fact that climate is changing and that we must prepare for droughts that we are experiencing now or the flooding that will occur elsewhere.”
Hilton took time to highlight the various partnerships that have helped rural water systems. Those include billions of dollars in funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and both regulatory and financial assistance from the Environmental Protection Agency.
“President Ford said in 1974, ‘I am pleased to say that we are moving ahead to confront these new problems threatening our drinking water.’ Forty years later we are still moving ahead,” Hilton said. “We have not reached our goal, but because of the individuals in this room, their organizations, and the involvement of our communities, we will overcome every challenge.”
Hilton’s speech was part of a day of events that included presentations from Peter Grevatt, Gina McCarthy, and Victor Kim of the EPA.
LONOKE, Ark. – Kurtis Daniels holds up a small pile of salt, enough to fit in the palm of his hand. It’s only a few cents worth of common table salt, but with a combination of ingenuity and technology, it’s the key ingredient to generating 10,000 gallons of clean drinking water. On December 3rd, rural water experts from six states gathered at the Arkansas Rural Water Association’s office in Lonoke to learn how to use this technology during emergencies and natural disasters.
Daniels and Doug Lark are part of WaterStep, an organization that brings clean drinking water solutions to developing countries. WaterStep’s mobile water systems are built to be simple, rugged, and able to run on limited resources – qualities necessary for working in developing countries; that also make the systems perfect for emergency response. In October, during the National Rural Water Association’s WaterPro Conference, HD Supply Waterworks donated two of the WaterStep mobile water systems to NRWA as part of their sponsorship of the organization.
“We’re really excited,” said Kevin Renckens, HD Supply Waterworks Director of National Sales. “We think this is a great opportunity to provide help for communities in emergency situations.”
WaterStep systems have already been serving communities in developing nations for nearly a decade, where they are saving lives.
“I first got into this, because a friend of mine showed me a demonstration of the chlorinator,” Daniels explained. “He told me: ‘Did you know that 25,000 people die every day from water-borne illnesses?’ I told him that couldn’t be right. He told me it was the equivalent of loading a 747 full of people and crashing it to the ground every 30 minutes.
“I looked up the numbers and he was right. After he demonstrated this system, I knew we had a way to make a difference.”
The mobile system’s potential to provide support during emergencies in this country is enormous. All the necessary components are stored in a small rolling cart, weighing only 445 pounds, and everything can be assembled in roughly 15 minutes. Yet, the system has the power to treat 1,250 gallons of water in one of its bladder tanks in 30 minutes.
The heart of the system is the M-100 Chlorinator. It looks like a simple jar of plastic and dangling hoses. Inside, though, are a pair of electrodes and a gas-permeable membrane that can convert a handful of salt, some water, and the electricity from a marine 12-volt battery into enough chlorine gas to treat thousands of gallons of water.
“We don’t have to bring in a train or boat loads of bleach and chemicals,” said Daniels, the WaterStep Director of Field Operations. “Salt is everywhere, it’s commonly available, and it’s cheap.”
The pound of salt used in the training session was bought for $.43 at a local store. Daniels mixes the salt into a brine solution and connects the chlorinator to a DV battery. Bubbles of hydrogen gurgle though the solution and a fog of gas begins collecting at the top of the chlorinator. In just a few minutes of operation, the membrane system is producing chlorine gas from salt, water, and electricity.
“We chlorinate to five parts per million, and that’s overkill,” Daniels said. “But, if we can get it to five parts per million and have 30 minutes of contact time, then if the chlorine level drops, it tells me a lot about the water. It tells me I need to filter the next batch.”
The mobile water system includes a filtration attachment that can be connected to the hoses at the water source. The package includes a 100 micron and a 25 micro disk filter.
“These disk filters are great because you don’t have to replace them. Just clean them out,” explained Lark.
The filtration attachment is made to quick-connect to the hoses filling the bladder tanks, but the system includes adapters that allow it to be connected to our source. Part of the system’s effectiveness is that the parts can be configured to numerous ways to fit each situation.
“In an emergency situation, your fire department will be best to bring the water to you,” Daniels said. “These will connect right to their pumpers and if the water is clear, you can connect the chlorinator in-line and chlorinate as you fill the tanks.
“In another case, you can use the pump to draw from a body of water like a pond or river, and filter it, then treat it in the tank,” Lark added.
The system can then distribute through common connections into portable containers or other applications. It can also supply water to Red Cross trailers, shower stations, or decontamination trailers. The chlorinator can also be connected to “water buffalo” towed storage tanks that are commonly brought in by National Guard units during emergencies, disinfecting those water supplies right in the tank.
“Anything you can think of, you can arrange the parts to do it,” Daniels said.
The system remains simple despite its power and flexibility. Most connections use a quick connect system and are color-coded for easy installation. Major parts have labels to ensure easy use.
“So you fill it to the line that says ‘Fill to Here,’” Daniels explains, holding up the chlorinator. “You pour the salt water into the spout that says ‘Pour Salt Water Here.’ It’s not rocket science.”
The entire system can be run by a hand pump, a power outlet, or with the included 12 volt DC marine battery. The package includes a battery charger and folding 60 watt solar cell capable of running the entire system while charging the battery. The rolling cart was selected to meet shipping specifications, ensuring there are no extended pieces that can be damaged in transport.
Every aspect of the system has been considered, engineered, and tested in real communities throughout the developing world. Even the byproducts from the chlorinator can be put to use. One side of the membrane produces sodium hydroxide, or lye, which can be used to kill flies and mosquito larva. The other side of the membrane creates a chlorine solution similar to bleach that can be used as a disinfectant or cleaning agent.
“A real world application you might encounter in a disaster is with Red Cross food trailers,” Lark said. “We know that in Sandy and in Joplin the Red Cross was struggling to find enough bleach to keep their kitchen trailers clean.”
The two water systems donated by HD Supply will be stored in Arkansas and New York, where they can be dispatched to other areas in case of emergency. The plan for the Arkansas unit is to house it in a small covered trailer that can be towed to systems in need.
“This is not our unit, this is everyone’s unit,” said Dennis Sternberg, executive director of the Arkansas Rural Water Association. “We’re all interested in this for the same thing, to help our members. This is just one more piece of equipment to do that.”
Nearly twenty rural water specialists from Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Tennessee attended the training. The second WaterStep unit donated by HD Supply will be located in New York. Training is scheduled for New York Rural Water Association and surrounding states.
BURR OAK, Kan. – Doug Guenther and Greg Metz, Technical Assistants with the Kansas Rural Water Association, went to the City of Burr Oak on June 24th to assist with a loss of chlorine and helped restore a contaminated well threatening the community’s health.
“I came at the request of Mayor Walter Wilson, because they had trouble maintaining their chlorine residuals,” Guenther explained.
Burr Oak has a unique arrangement. They purchase water from the nearby Jewell County Rural Water District #1 and blend it with water pumped from the Burr Oak city well. Water from the city well contains too much selenium, and the blending process reduced the concentrations to acceptable levels. Sometime during the process, however, the chlorine residual of the incoming water was being reduced from 1.9 mg/L to 0.0 mg/L, essentially nothing.
“I determined the loss of residue had to be from a contaminated well,” Guenther said. “I recommended they stop using the well until it could be decontaminated.”
The city relied on the Jewel County #1 water until Metz could return on June 30th to assist with super-chlorinating the well.
“We used a 1,500 gallon supply tank, and added 20 gallons of liquid 12 percent sodium hypochlorite,” Metz explained. “We pumped all of that back into the well and allowed it to rest for 24 hours.”
The next day they pumped the water from the well for nearly four hours until all the chlorine was removed.
“There was a substantial amount of discolored water at the start of pumping,” Metz said.
Once the water tested for 0.0 mg/L of chlorine, the well was put back on-line and Burr Oak began blending their water as they had previously. Metz conducted a follow-up a week later, and Mayor Wilson reported the utility was running fine and they were maintaining their chlorine residuals.
DUNCAN, Okla. – The National Rural Water Association has announced a webinar, “Know your Septic System – Save Money” for 2 p.m. CST on December 18th. The webinar will focus on the information presented in the new Septic Insight mobile application.
Despite their simple design, common septic tanks rely on a number of complex chemical and biological processes to function properly. Septic tanks require regular care and maintenance to ensure they can adequately handle waste products while protecting the health of the household and the environment. Regular care can include everything from restricting the kinds of chemicals put down the toilet to how often laundry is washed. The National Rural Water Association has developed the Septic Insight App so that property owners can quickly assess the status of their septic practices and get helpful information about septic care. The Septic Insight App condenses information gathered from EPA’s Septic Smart program, university extension offices, engineering firms, and septic pumpers to offer a full range of relevant information in a quick, easy format.