TULSA, Okla. – Over 400 Rural Water staff from across the U.S. gathered in Tulsa, Okla. as the National Rural Water Association opened their annual in-service training on June 5. This annual event provides the training and education necessary for Rural Water staff to remain the foremost experts in the water industry.
“This is one of my favorite meetings,” said NRWA CEO Sam Wade, “because this meeting is about improving ourselves.”
Edna Primrose, USDA Rural Utilities Service Assistant Administrator for the Water and Environmental Program spoke at the opening session.
Training covers all aspects of rural water, including association management, marketing, accounting and technical assistance. Technical training focuses on improving the assistance provided to utilities through the drinking water, wastewater and source water protection programs.
Want to learn more about the Rural Water Loan Fund? Read more in the upcoming August issue of Rural Water magazine or Click Here
BARODA, Mich. – The Village of Baroda was leaking cash – the utility was losing between 20 to 40 percent of their treated water and the cost was financially unsustainable. A low-interest loan from the National Rural Water Association’s Rural Water Loan Fund is helping replace the community’s aging water meters and bring their water loss under control.
“We decided we needed to do something,” said Baroda Clerk Tina Boehm. “We were losing too much water.”
Research identified the village’s aging water meters as the primary cause of the massive water loss.
“Most of the meters are over 25 years old and they are very inaccurate,” Boehm said.
Several of the meters were originally installed when the utility was constructed, over 30 years ago. Baroda saw an opportunity to replace their aging infrastructure and make necessary changes, like adjusting the water rates.
“We thought it made more sense to do it all at once instead of piecemeal,” Boehm said. “We also decided to restructure our rate system. There hadn’t been any changes for several years.”
Baroda first learned of the Rural Water Loan Fund from John Holland, a Circuit Rider with the Michigan Rural Water Association. The program’s low interest and lack of fees would make the meter replacement affordable to a utility that had been losing money due to water loss for years.
“The loan made this project affordable,” Boehm said.
Once the community started the loan process, they learned that it was a fast, easy way to meet their financial needs.
“It was a very simple process and it was very easy working with NRWA,” Boehm said. “They made the loan process very smooth and easy.”
Baroda has completed 85 percent of the meter replacement and it has reduced water loss down to 5 percent.
“It’s been incredible,” Boehm said. “Our water loss has improved dramatically. It’s helping us cover our operations and put some money back into the bank.”
NORWOOD, N.C. – The Town of Norwood, N. C. was faced with the costs of servicing the new debts required to upgrade their water and wastewater system, but a rate study by the North Carolina Rural Water Association put the community on track to sustainability.
“The town had recently taken on additional debt because of some big projects,” explained NCRWA Management Circuit Rider Marty Wilson. “They didn’t have to reserves to pay for those projects, so they had to finance them with loans.”
Norwood’s past practice was to set rates to cover the basic operations and maintenance expenses but did not budget for the cost of depreciation. This can leave systems without reserve funds when it’s time to replace equipment or make system improvements. Wilson’s rate study found that Norwood generated $1.3 million in revenues annually through water and sewer bill payments, but that total expenditures for water and sewer total $2.1 million. As a result, the remaining $800,000 shortfall had to be covered from other areas of the town budget.
“Over a period of years, they hadn’t increased their rates,” Wilson said. “They were gradually getting further and further behind.”
It’s a common problem for water utilities, because of the costs of treating water and the political pressure of town councils to keep rates low.
“It’s the rule, not the exception,” Wilson said. “I’ve done hundreds of rates studies and the vast majority of towns I’ve studied are in the same situation. They have artificially low rates and have not funded the future capital projects necessary to maintain the system.”
Norwood’s Town Administrator John Mullis first learned of North Carolina Rural Water’s rate studies from Terry Greene, a NCRWA Circuit Rider that had been assisting them with water operations. Wilson was conducting a rate study in Denton, N. C. and offered for Mullis to observe the process and attend a presentation to the Denton Town Council.
“After he came along and saw the process, he was very in tested in a rate study for Norwood,” Wilson said.
Wilson began reviewing Norwood’s financial and operational records.
“My goal is to simplify the process,” Wilson said. “Council members are not usually water professionals or accountants.”
Wilson begins by computing the cost of water service, operation and maintenance costs, debt service and capital costs.
“The service they are providing to their citizens has coast,” Wilson said. “So, have to find the true cost of that service. Then we can calculate the rates needed to provide that service.”
Wilson and Greene presented the results of the rate study to the Norwood town council. In his estimate, a 63 percent rate increase was needed to immediately to correct the shortfall. The town’s “declining block” rate structure was also cited as a reason several utilities grant applications the town has submitted have been rejected. Under the declining block structure, the per-unit price of water decreases as water consumption increases, and as such does not reward water conservation, a key component in scoring of such grants.
“How do most other towns and cities handle adjusting rates?” asked Commissioner Robbie Cohen.
“This can’t be done overnight,” Wilson said. “Every town is different, and there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach.”
After discussion, the town council voted to end the declining block rate structure, to make a 15 percent rate increase and to schedule yearly increase until the rates can meet Norwood’s financial needs.
“I was extremely impressed with the Norwood council,” Wilson said. “It was a shock – they realized they were behind, but they didn’t know how far. But they didn’t hesitate to address the problem. Once they had the information they needed, they were very proactive.”
GRANVILLE, N. D. – When the Community of Granville couldn’t locate a sewer blockage that was causing sewage backups for residents, they contacted the North Dakota Rural Water Systems Association.
“We jetted the main, but the contractor hit a dead end and couldn’t go any further,” explained Granville System Operations Specialist Paul Rosencrans. “We requested Rural Water bring the sewer camera just to see what was going on.”
Sewer jetting uses high-pressure water sprayers to high-pressure water jets to clear obstructions in residential and commercial drain pipes as well as larger municipal sewer systems. The jetting removed some ice frozen in the sewer but didn’t solve the backup problems.
“The customer on the end of the line was still having sewer problems,” said Les Sigette, a NDRWSA Wastewater Technician. “I brought the association sewer camera to try to find the obstruction.”
The sewer camera uses cables and a rolling mount that moves through pipes, transmitting and recording video of any possible obstructions. He started moving the camera through the sewer main at the nearest manhole.
“About 10 feet down we found some misaligned tile,” Sigette said. “It wasn’t severe enough to cause the blockage, though.”
A few feet farther, Sigette found the dead-end obstruction that the sewer jetting could not remove.
“The residential sewer line was shoved in completely through the main to the other side,” he said. “I’ve seen pipes shift before, but I’ve never seen it go all the through the city sewer main.”
It’s uncertain what caused the pipe to shift, but Sigette suspects it moved when the ground thawed and shifted. The line will have to be dug up and reinstalled with a saddle to prevent separation. Sigette’s assistance helped the community quickly locate the source of the problem and begin working on solutions, something that would not have been possible without rural water assistance.
“His knowledge and his equipment were very helpful,” Rosencrans said of Sigette. “It’s great that Rural Water is there to help us.”
JULIAETTA, Idaho – When customers started calling because they were without water, the City of Juliaetta, Idaho started searching for the leak that drained all the water from the storage tanks. When they couldn’t locate the break, assistance from the Idaho Rural Water Association helped the city restore service and obtain funding to replace the vital water line.
“We lost 200,000 to 300,000 gallons of water,” explained Juliaetta Public Works Director Josh Luscombe. “We were sure it would show up somewhere.”
The city contacted IRWA Circuit Rider Kevin McLeod for assistance. Circuit Riders are roving water professionals that provide training and technical assistance to utilities. McLeod suspected the leak was in a line that crossed the river, but the exact location was still undetermined.
“I did some line locating to find the pipe running into the river,” McLeod said. “I opened up the valve and you could see water and air bubbling up in the river.”
The line connects the Juliaetta system to a ground water well that supplements the city’s surface water intake during the summer when the river levels are low.
“They have a difficult time making water when the river is low,” McLeod said. “The well supplements the water at the plant.”
McLeod and Luscombe decided that the pipe was exposed the previous summer and that recent, record-level runoff had damaged the pipe. They decided to inspect a bridge recently built upstream of the water line, to see if the new structure had changed the river’s flow characteristics. When they returned on the opposite bank, they clearly saw the damaged line.
“You could see the broken pipe clearly when we were standing on the opposite bank,” McLeod said.
They isolated the broken line from the rest of the system, allowing the tanks to fill and restore service to all but five Juliaetta homes. McLeod recommended the city apply for a USDA Emergency Community Water Assistance Grant to secure funding to replace the water line before it was needed in the summer.
The next day, the high runoff continued to create problems for the Juliaetta treatment plant.
“They had problems with high turbidity, so I walked them through some potential solutions over the phone,” McLeod said. Turbidity is a measure of the solid material floating suspended in water, which can spike when runoff washes dirt and other material into the river.
“He told me to look in the records to see what chemicals we used in the past,” Luscombe said. “Then he walked me through some scenarios and through jar testing some different chemicals.”
After helping restore clean water to Juliaetta, McLeod has continued assisting the community in working with the USDA to acquire funding to repair the damaged water line. His assistance has been crucial for the small Idaho city.
“He’s been our Circuit Rider for a long time, and he’s always made sure we have everything we need, whether training material or hands-on assistance,” Luscombe said. “He’s a great guy and he’s excellent to work with.”
NRWA Comments Submitted to EPA regarding the Lead and Copper Rule
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on regulatory revisions to the drinking water Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) under the Agency’s Executive Order 13132, “Federalism” consultation.
Headquartered in Duncan (Oklahoma), the National Rural Water Association (NRWA) is the nonprofit association of the federated state rural water associations with a combined membership of over 30,000 small and rural communities. NRWA is the country’s largest water utility association and the largest community-based environmental organization. State Rural Water Associations are non-profit associations governed by elected board members from the membership. Our member utilities have the very important public responsibility of complying with all applicable U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations and for supplying the public with safe drinking water and sanitation every day.
We appreciate the many opportunities the Agency has provided to all stakeholders to participate in the crafting of revisions to the LCR such as providing comments, numerous substantive discussions, and many formal public consultations. In addition to this latest opportunity for public input, NRWA participated in the November 2011, Federalism Consultation, the August 2015 Lead and Copper Working Group to the National Drinking Water Advisory Council (LCRWG), and the December 2015 deliberations of the National Drinking Water Advisory Council (NDWAC). The Agency’s outreach effort for seeking public and stakeholder participation for crafting revisions to the LCR is likely the broadest and most transparent process conducted for any federal National Primary Drinking Water Regulation to date. NRWA supports the August 2015 recommendations supported by the majority of participants on LCRWG that were subsequently endorsed by the NDWC (December 15, 2015). We believe our comments today are consistent with the LCRWG recommendations.
NRWA shares the EPA’s goal of eliminating all lead from the public’s drinking water. Local governments and state governments exist solely to protect and assist their citizens. The provision of safe drinking water is perhaps the most elemental purpose of local government. Every one of the approximately 68,122 U.S. public drinking water supplies that are regulated under the LCR has a unique set of vulnerabilities and challenges. If you apply a uniform regulatory standard to mandate protection in all of them, you will not only fail to address the greatest risks in many communities, but you will force many other communities to implement unnecessary regulations that fail to address their threats. We believe the current LCR can be modified to result in enhanced public health protection and drinking water safety.
Rural and small communities support the Administration’s two principled objectives in reforming federal regulations: (1) respecting the decisions of the people as reflected in their local governments (including when it is in conflict with federal unfunded mandates) under the concept of “cooperative federalism,” and (2) respecting the authority of Congress by administering enacted statutes within the authority granted by Congress.
“As the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, I am a firm believer in EPA’s mission to protect human health and the environment and am committed to helping provide future generations with a better and healthier environment. I also firmly believe that federal agencies exist to administer the law. Congress passes statutes, and those statutes outline the responsibilities and work that EPA must do. Any action by EPA that exceeds the authority granted to it by Congress, by definition, cannot be consistent with the Agency’s mission… EPA can accomplish a lot when the Agency focuses on working cooperatively with the states and tribes to improve health and the environment. It is essential for the federal government, state governments, and tribal governments to work together to provide the environmental protection that our laws demand and that the American people deserve. I strongly support cooperative federalism, and make every effort to partner with EPA’s counterparts in state, local, and tribal governments to further these goals.”
Administrator Scott Pruitt Before the Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, U.S. House of Representatives June 15, 2017
The reason local governments support cooperative federalism is because federal regulations, while well-intentioned, may have an adverse effect on public health. Some federal regulations may include mandates that local communities and consumers pay the cost of federal compliance that they don’t believe is resulting in the most beneficial public health or environmental policy. This dynamic is especially acute and problematic for economically disadvantaged populations. This is the case under the current LCR.
Communities are conducting repeated and complicated samplings in local homes that have for decades tested negative for lead and where the local water utility has no lead service lines. Local residents find the current in-home sampling overly complicated and arbitrary which results in local resistance and unwillingness to participate in lead drinking water sampling. The success of any drinking water safety program is dependent on local support. Communities are mandated to pay for very costly replacement of portions of lead service lines that are resulting in increased exposure to lead in drinking water. Communities are required to introduce additional chemicals to their public’s drinking water when they are not persuaded there is a correlating public health benefit and when they believe there were less costly and more protective options (that are not permitted under the LCR).
Communities are mandated into federal compliance schemes when the federal drinking water program can’t tell the public the one thing it wants to know — how much lead in drinking water is unsafe? Instead, federal agencies say the obvious, that no amount of lead in your water is good and impose a highly convoluted standard (action level) of 15 parts per billion on a certain percentage of the homes tested. Is the 15 parts per billion level measuring safety? That is what is implied. Is a 15.5 parts per billion level unsafe… for children… for a one-time drink of that water? Should a family feel safe with water tested at 14.9 parts per billion level?
NRWA supports the Agency’s concept of “shared responsibility” among federal, state, and local governments – and the public. Any new LCR should be fundamentally modified to reflect this principle. Unfortunately, much of the local opposition to the current rule is based on its arbitrary and uniform mandates that result in many communities believing many of the rule’s requirements are unnecessary or diverting the community from implementing the most effective policy from preventing lead in drinking water. To ensure the greatest possible future success and the greatest possible public health protection, any new rule should be a shared responsibility, meaning local governments and local populations should agree the resulting policies are necessary, tailored to local conditions, and result in a commensurate public health benefit. This intergovernmental collaborative should be incorporated into the details of the rule in: monitoring schemes, lead service line replacement plans, efficacy of corrosion control treatment, public education, remedies to high household tap samples, and the provision of pitcher filters to certain customers. In all of these key rule elements, provisions should be included to ensure any uniform federal remedy does not usurp any solution that is preferable by the local citizens and more protective of public health.
Specific Shared Responsibility Opportunities to Improve the LCR
Sampling: Local governments should have the authority to develop locally supported and tailored in-home tap sampling schemes. Later in these comments, we argue that the current in-home tap sampling scheme exceeds the authority provided to the Agency under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). EPA’s responsibility should be limited to sampling guidance, technical and education information. Local governments can better craft monitoring plans and schedules based on local preference including sampling during day-time hours, targeting schools for testing, varied aerator removal, targeting homes with children such as daycare centers, resistance of homeowner participation, sampling flushed water samples versus first draw, historically negative sampling results, findings of no potential lead sources (plastic pipe systems), etc.
Decouple Tap Sampling from Utility Compliance: Allow utility compliance (primarily corrosion control treatment) to be tested through water quality parameter sampling within the public water system. Results from in-home tap sampling should be used for a catalogue of response options that target the causes of elevated sampling results at the specific site including the following: possible replacement of lead service lines in the home, assessment of in-home plumbing fixtures, notification and assistance of additional governmental service agencies, etc.
Lead Service Line Replacement: Any mandatory policy for the replacement of lead service lines should respect local ordinances and property rights; homeowners should not be mandated to modify their private property if they believe it is not affordable and community taxpayers should not be required to pay for an individual property owner’s plumbing upgrades (transfer public funds to private use). Any mandatory replacement policy should have special affordability considerations for situations where the replacement is cost-prohibitive in economically disadvantaged communities without a finding of elevated lead in drinking water levels.
Public Education and Pitcher Filters: Local governments should be granted authority to modify public notice and educational material to reflect local conditions and risk communications. Our concern is the current EPA information is unnecessarily alarming the public regarding the safety of their drinking water. Many violations of EPA standards are not necessarily an indication of unsafe drinking water (i.e. a temporary exceedance for a small fraction of a part per million that is causing the public to stop drinking their water and not trust their local government). The information provided to the public needs to be commensurate with any public health risk from the drinking water. Some states have been compelled to issue additional public notices to warn consumers of the significance of EPA mandated warnings. More and better tailoring of public information would make for a better educated public. Also, local governments should have the flexibility to decide when providing individual customers with a pitcher filter is necessary. EPA guidance on the use of pitcher filters would be helpful and welcome.
Intergovernmental Cooperation: Create a new process or guidance to encourage multi-government contribution to crafting lead in drinking water prevention initiatives, locally supported monitoring schemes, educating vulnerable populations, and response actions when sampling detects elevated lead levels in drinking water. The LCRWG presented a number of recommendations to further “cooperation with state, county and local health departments to promote an integrated approach to childhood lead poisoning screening, prevention, and protection that emphasizes drinking water and its potential as a primary lead source (e.g. infants dependent on reconstituted formula).” We endorse this concept of a new intergovernmental cooperation.
Regarding principle of respecting the authority of Congress by administering enacted statutes within the authority granted by Congress, we respectfully urge the Agency to consider if the existing LCR’s mandate that allows for the effects of a private homeowner’s plumbing (i.e. a kitchen faucet) on the water passing through that fixture should result in very burdensome and possibly unrelated requirements on the utility (i.e. treatment installation or adjustments, removal of underground water lines, and alarming public notices) is authorized under the SDWA. We understand the Agency believes it has statutory authority to regulate utilities’ water as it relates to the safety of the water that comes from a customer’s tap. However, under the existing LCR, the Agency does not make any finding of contamination or adverse effect on the health of persons before the reaction with homeowner’s private public fixtures as required by the SDWA. Additionally, the SDWA limits EPA’s authority to regulate the quality of drinking water “in the water in public water systems.” We believe the current LCR regulatory nexus between the results of tap sampling (when EPA has made no finding of contamination or any adverse effect on the water leaving the public water systems) and correlating mandates on the greater community exceeds the authority provided under the SDWA.
We urge the Agency to craft a new rule that decouples the regulatory requirements on water utilities from results of tap sampling. The results of tap samples should be used for every community to implement a locally-tailored lead reduction plan that corresponds to the risk in that particular community. This will result in greater potential to reduce lead in drinking water by allowing for more community involvement and responsibility in sampling and remediation, better use of local limited resources, and remediation plans that are more targeted to local conditions.
We do believe that EPA has the authority to regulate the quality of the water within the public water systems as it relates to the potential for lead occurrence at the tap through water quality parameters, corrosion control treatment, and each community’s historic tap sampling results.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment and participate. We are very appreciative of the Agency’s many public outreach opportunities. We believe that our recommendations will result in a better federal lead rule and greater public health protection by recognizing the need for the public to support and participate in their local government and accept responsibility for its operation. We need to acknowledge that with respect to the crisis in Flint, Michigan, the current LCR was unable to prevent it, and unable to tell us whether Flint violated the federal lead standard while delivering alarming amounts of lead to citizens in their water. Additionally, it is a case where no one knows what level of government is to blame. We believe our recommendations will begin to correct the status quo by granting additional authority and responsibility to the people. Flint should serve as a wake-up call for the public as the guarantor of the safety of their public drinking water through their local governments. The public owns and operates their public drinking water supply and is ultimately responsible for its safety.
Julia Langley, Lyon 1 Office Manager and Rita Clary, KRWA review USDA RD Apply online application
LYON COUNTY, Kan. – Rita Clary looks over Julia Langley’s shoulder, assisting the Office Manger as she fills out the RD Apply online loan application. Clary is a Circuit Rider with the Kansas Rural Water Association – a water professional expert in both the technical operation and financial management of a water utility. Her experience with the loan application process helped Lyon County Water Districts 1 and 5 secure the funding necessary for a water improvement project.
“Rita’s help with the RD Apply, sam.gov and Kansas Department of Health and Environment loan applications were invaluable,” said Langley, who is the Office manager for Lyon RWDs 1 and 5. “Her knowledge and expertise made it possible for us to get our applications for funding submitted in a timely manner. That made my job so much easier.”
Clary’s familiarity with the loan applications is built on repeated experience with the systems. In the case of Lyon RWD No. 1, an interim finance loan is being obtained through the loan program administered by the state regulatory agency. Clary is presently working with 24 loan applicants.
The Circuit Rider first walked Lyon County through the process of acquiring a Dun & Bradstreet DUNS number – a nine-digit federal identification number required for many of the loan applications.
“I help them get registered on RD Apply and sam.gov,” Clary said.
RD Apply is in on-line application system for the USDA’s Rural Development loan and grant program. The System for Award Management site at sam.gov is a General Services Administration system that allows organizations to conduct business with the government. USDA has put significant effort into making RD Apply accessible, but the process for applying for a government loan that can be worth millions of dollars can only be simplified so much. That’s where Clary’s experience with the system can be so valuable.
“When you get an error message, I know a few ways to work through that,” Clary said. “A lot of times it’s changing the wording, from ‘City of Americus’ to ‘Americus, City of.’”
Americus is one of the communities served by the Lyon County Rural Water Districts 1 and 5. Part of the improvement project was to make distribution upgrades and provide a new transmission main to Americus. The project would also make improvements to an existing standpipe in Bushong and build a new elevated water storage tank in the district.
Lyon County opened bids in February and the bids came in below estimates. Construction is ready to start. That doesn’t mean Clary’s work is finished.
“The USDA often requires a Vulnerability Assessment and Emergency Response Plan before completion of the project, and I help borrowers work through that system,” she explained. “I also check with them to make sure they’re familiar with the process and I can act as a liaison with the USDA.”
The assistance of Clary and other Kansas Rural Water Association staff has been critical in allowing Lyon County to improve their water service in a timely and affordable manner.
“We couldn’t have done it without KRWA,” Langley wrote in a letter to the Association and the USDA State Office.
DUNCAN, Okla. — The National Rural Water Association is grateful for the beneficial water-related provisions in the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (H.R. 2). The bill was introduced in the House of Representatives on April 12, 2018 by House Agriculture Committee Chairman, Mike Conaway from Texas.
“Over the last 70 years, through the assistance authorized in the Farm Bill, USDA’s rural water initiatives have made great advancements in the standard of living in rural America,” NRWA CEO Sam Wade stated. “These rural water infrastructure initiatives have been the engine of economic development and agricultural-related advances in rural communities, and they have provided for dramatic improvements to the quality of life, the environment and public health.”
The Chairman’s legislation addresses priority small and rural community water issues with the following provisions:
Section 6204; Water, Waste Disposal, and Wastewater Facility Loans and Grants: Authorizes U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 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 made 96,724 loans and grants totaling $54.6 billion.
Section 6205 & 6206; Rural Water and Wastewater Circuit Rider Program: 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 recovery. According to small and rural communities, this initiative is the most effective compliance assistance with the Safe Drinking Water Act and Clean Water Act. Small communities want to ensure a supply of quality water and stay in compliance; Circuit Riders provide them the shared technical resources to accomplish it. The Circuit Rider concept was designed by Congress to allow small communities access to technical expertise that is available to larger communities. Each community’s water infrastructure is unique, which means technical assistance must be available to address a community’s particular problem.
Section 2402; Grassroots Source Water Protection Program: Authorizes the technical assistance necessary to assist rural communities in the implementation of source water protection plans. This is the only statewide local community-based initiative ensuring environmentally progressive local land-use decisions to protect drinking water sources from potential sources of contamination including non-point sources or runoff. This program demonstrates that locally supported drinking water protection plans are preferable and more effective than expanding federal regulatory control over farmers.
Section 6205: Authorizes a new federal initiative to allow Circuit Riders to assist local communities with long-term water infrastructure sustainability by providing third party independent capacity/sustainability assessments that consider financial and operational options, partnerships, consolidation, regionalization, governance polices, contracting for services, workforce development, increasing resources and other options. NRWA supports partnerships and consolidation when it makes local economic sense because growing economies of scale result in lower cost to the consumer than operating independent water utilities. Rural water technical assistance has led to or assisted in more communities consolidating their water supplies than any program, policy or organization.
Small and rural communities have an important public responsibility of supplying safe drinking water and sanitation every second of every day while complying with all applicable federal Safe Drinking Water Act and Clean Water Act regulations. Most U.S. water utilities are small. More than 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 plus wastewater systems serve fewer than 10,000 people.
CLICK HERE to read the full legislative text of the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018.
Contactor climbing into Hannaford tank to steam frozen intake.
HANNAFORD, N. D. – When ice blocked the intake of the Hannaford water tower, the pumps cycled erratically, pressure spiked in the distribution system, and malfunctions threatened to leave the community without water. Assistance from the North Dakota Rural Water Systems Association helped avoid disaster and restore water service.
“We had some insulation in the tank that slid down,” explained Hannaford City Auditor Ed Everson. “When we had several days of cold temperatures and high wind, the tank started to freeze.”
Unfortunately, Hannaford wasn’t aware of the ice in their tank when the demand pumps started cycling erratically and pressure spiked in the distribution system. The rapid cycling threatened to burn up the pumps and high pressures risked main breaks, all with Hannaford’s usual tank service contractor unavailable for two days.
“We knew we couldn’t use our regular contractor because it would take two days,” Everson said, “We’d be without water for two days,”.
That’s when Everson contacted North Dakota Rural Water for assistance.
“The pumps were cycling on and off faster than they should, and customers were complaining of extremely high pressure,” NDRWSA Circuit Rider Jeremy Sheeley said. “As soon as he described it, I figured it was ice over the intake.”
Flushing Hannford fire hydrant to get warmer water into the system.
The ice over the tank intake confused the system and interrupted the normal filling process.
“The water tower sensors were calling for water, but since the intake was blocked, the demand pumps were pushing straight into the distribution system,” Sheeley explained.
The Circuit Rider advised the community to shut down the demand pumps and call a contractor in the nearby Devil’s Lake. Sheeley and the tank contractor would be able to assist the next day.
The following day, Hannaford Water Works Superintendent Roger Rondestvedt was cycling the pumps manually to maintain appropriate levels of pressure in the system. The contractor climbed into the tower and started cutting through the ice with steam. Once the contractor cut a sizable hole in the ice, Sheeley opened a fire hydrant on the edge of town to get more water moving through the system.
“The water from the well is warmer,” Sheeley explained. “Plus, moving water won’t freeze.”
Moving water through the system helped cut through more ice. By about 4 p.m., the standpipe was thawed, and the tower was back in service. Sheeley advised Hannaford to move water through the tower the next day, and to set the water level as low as they were comfortable with to keep the water cycling.
The quick action helped keep the water flowing and prevented significant damage to the water system.
“We were lucky we didn’t lose our pumps,” Everson said.
“Hannaford has a relatively new distribution system, so the higher pressure didn’t cause any breaks or leaks,” Sheeley added.
Hannaford has been running without any further issues and has plans to repair the tank insulation in the summer.
“Jeremy stayed until the work was done. He put in a pretty full day,” Everson said. “I really appreciate it, we all do.”
CASPER, Wyo — The National Rural Water Association’s Region 8 Environmental Finance Center opened a finance forum focusing on the needs of Region 8 communities on April 17 at the Ramkota Hotel and Conference Center in Casper, Wyo.
NRWA’s EFC helps communities find effective and innovative ways to help address the growing costs of protecting public health and the environment in a sustainable and equitable manner. The EFC will provide finance-related training, technical assistance, finance studies, and other analytical support to help communities develop sustainable solutions to the critical “how-to-pay” issues associated with meeting environmental standards and goals.
Forum participants will learn how to increase financial viability and access to funding, improve customer satisfaction, develop operational resiliency, ensure water resource adequacy and build stakeholder understanding and support.
Attendees will include drinking water and wastewater utilities, water sector professionals, community leaders, technical assistance providers, and regional funders.