OU to host Oklahoma Water Symposium

OU Water CenterNORMAN– Many people don’t worry about turning on a faucet for a glass of clean water, so it may be hard to imagine that clean water is a luxury for about one-sixth of the world’s population. In fact, the Water Technologies for Emerging Regions Center at the University of Oklahoma indicates that one child dies every 15 seconds because of a lack of clean water and adequate sanitation.

To help address this challenge, some of the world’s leading experts in water sustainability and sanitation will gather on Friday, Sept. 26 at the 2014 Oklahoma Water Symposium to discuss the latest research and share their experiences in bringing water and sanitation to remote areas of emerging regions. The symposium, hosted by the WaTER Center and coordinated through the College of Engineering’s School of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science, will be from 9 a.m. to noon in the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation Auditorium, Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication on the OU Norman campus. The symposium is free and open to the public. The symposium will also be streamed online at http://gaylord3.ou.edu/water.

The panel will be comprised of six distinguished experts in a variety of water-related fields:

• Emmanouil Anagnostou, professor of civil and environmental engineering, Northeast Utilities Endowed Chair and director of the environmental engineering program at the University of Connecticut
• Braimah Apambire, director of the Center for International Water and Sustainability at the Desert Research Institute
• Rafael Callejas, executive director of the Millennium Water Alliance
• Jenna Davis, associate professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Higgins-Magid Senior Fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University
• Pawan Labhasetwar, senior principal scientist and head of the Water Technology and Management Division at the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute in Nagpur, India
• Jan Willem Rosenboom, senior program officer in the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Strategy at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

During the panel discussion, the OU WaTER Center will announce the recipient of the fourth OU International Water Prize. The prize recognizes and honors an individual or group that has made significant contributions in the field of water supply and sanitation, particularly for small villages and communities in rural or remote regions of the world. The 2012 winner was community development activist Ada Oko-Williams from Nigeria, Africa.

NRWA launching energy efficiency program

DUNCAN, Okla. – The National Rural Water Association will begin a new energy efficiency program designed to promote energy efficient practices in small water and wastewater systems.

“Energy efficiency in utilities is an important part of ensuring that rural communities are sustainable,” said NRWA CEO Sam Wade. “”Small water and wastewater systems can benefit significantly from upgrading equipment and changing operational practices.””

Funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Agricultures Rural Utilities Service, the program will perform energy assessments, recommend energy-efficient practices and technologies, and provide support in achieving those recommendations. Technical support will include assisting with presentations to governing boards, accessing financing, training, and developing documentation.

The State Rural Water Associations in seven states, Colorado, Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, South Carolina, and Texas, will conduct the program, completing 40 assessments in each state for a total of 280 total assessments. The assessments will be conducted by staff from the State Rural Water Associations with certifications in commercial energy auditing and experience in delivering training and technical assistance to water utilities. The NRWA is the nations largest utility membership association and, with its State Affiliates, trains over 100,000 water professionals every year.

“”Rural Water Association staff members are highly experienced in operating and managing water and wastewater systems, with an average of 23 years of hands-on expertise,” said NRWA Program Manager Brendan Murphy. “State rural water staff have established working relationships with the utility systems in the state, allowing them to prioritize and assists the systems that would benefit the greatest from lower energy costs.”

Because energy is one of the largest costs for water utilities, the program is expected to have substantial impact on operating costs, financial sustainability, and product affordability. The program will set a goal of at least 10% improvement in energy efficiency and will prioritize assessments toward utilities that serve populations living in poverty.

“Lower energy costs will allow these utility systems to focus their funds and efforts toward improving infrastructure and investing in a safer and healthier future for rural America,” Murphy said.

The program will begin July 1st and operate for one year.

USDA provides funding opportunities

Water and wastewater facilities are vital to the health, safety and economic success of rural communities. During fiscal year fiscal year 2012, the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development infrastructure investment has improved rural economies through delivery of vital utility services, creating jobs and building stronger communities that are better able to grow and attract new business.

During fiscal year 2012, RUS invested over $1.4 billion in 845 water and wastewater projects in rural areas nationwide. Not only is reliable access to clean water necessary for rural communities to grow and prosper, but the design and construction of rural utility systems brings jobs and economic growth.

Continuing the commitment made in 2011 to focus on funding the smallest, most economically-challenged communities, Rural Development invested $221 million in persistent poverty counties in 21 states during fiscal year 2012 to improve health, safety and economic viability in these areas. Over $38.5 million funded technical assistance and training activities. This investment in water and wastewater expertise provides rural communities with the skills and knowledge for sustainable systems.

Rural Development’s Water and Environmental Program is the only federal program exclusively dedicated to serving the needs of small rural areas. The absence of clean water is not just an obstacle to growth and economic development, but a threat to the very survival of rural communities. By addressing these challenges, rural water systems play a key role in growth and prosperity of their communities.

Program assistance is provided in many ways, including direct or guaranteed loans, grants, technical assistance, research and educational materials. Please check the links below for more information.

1. Direct Loans and Grants – To develop water and waste disposal systems in rural areas and towns with a population not in excess of 10,000. The funds are available to public bodies, non-profit corporations and Indian tribes.

2. Guaranteed Loans – To provide a loan guarantee for the construction or improvement of water and waste disposal projects serving the financially needy communities in rural areas. This purpose is achieved through bolstering the existing private credit structure through the guarantee of quality loans which will provide lasting benefits. The water and waste disposal guarantee loans are to serve a population not in excess of 10,000 in rural areas.

3. Emergency Community Water Assistance Grants – To assist rural communities that have experienced a significant decline in quantity or quality of drinking water due to an emergency, or in which such decline is considered imminent, to obtain or maintain adequate quantities of water that meets the standards set by the Safe Drinking Water Act. This emergency is considered an occurrence of an incident such as, but not limited to, a drought, earthquake, flood, tornado, hurricane, disease outbreak or chemical spill, leakage or seepage.

4. Pre-development Planning Grants – Predevelopment planning grants may be available, if needed, to assist in paying costs associated with developing a complete application for a proposed project. 5. Loans for Very Small Projects – To assist communities with water and wastewater systems. Qualified private non-profit organizations will receive RFP grant funds to establish a lending program for eligible entities. This grant program is to serve a rural area with a population not in excess of 10,000.

Curtis, Neb. wins 2014 water taste test

2014 GAWTT WinnersWASHINGTON, D. C. – Water from Curtis, Neb. was named the best tasting in the nation at the 2014 Great American Water Taste Test, held on February 12th in Washington, D.C.

Stansbury Park, Utah won the silver medal and Callaway County Public Service District 2 in Fulton, Mo. won the bronze. Shenandoah, Va. and Point Sebago Outdoor Resort from Casco, Maine completed the five finalist.

Each finalist was selected from a preliminary tasting that included entries from every state in the nation. Each state rural water association conducts an annual water taste test, and the winners qualify for entry in the national taste test.

The winners were selected by a panel of four judges, including Jacqueline Ponti-Lazaruk, Assistant Administrator for the RUS Water and Environment Program; John Carter, Farm Service Agency; Jennifer Bell, White House Office of Management and Budget; and Kent Evans, RUS Water and Environment Program.

Each Entry is judged on Clarity, Bouquet and Overall Taste.

In addition wining second in the taste test, Stansbury Park earned a unique honor from Utah Senator Mike Lee. Lee, who hosts Jell-O with the Senator every Wednesday, will use Stansbury Park water to make the snack for the Feb. 12 event.

NRWA Opens 2014 Rural Water Rally

IMG_5875WASHINGTON D.C. – The National Rural Water Association opened the 2014 Rural Water Rally in an opening session that included speeches from Congressman Alan Nunnelee and USDA Acting Under Secretary for Rural Development Doug O’Brien, held on February 11th in Washington D.C.

Nunnelee, a Republican from Mississippi, remarked about the efforts of the Mississippi Rural Water Association during ice storms and tornados in the state. The congressman also praised rural water for its efforts to communicate and coordinate with government.

“The most important thing we can do is communicate,” Nunnelee said. “If you communicate when you don’t have it, you communicate better when you do have to.”

Nunnelee also expressed confidence that communication would aid rural water moving forward, despite potential budget issues in the future.

“We can get through the tough times in America by working together and communicating,” the congressman said.

O’Brien focused on the economic impact of rural water and the value it provides families in small communities. Rural Development’s goal is to provide economic opportunity and improve quality of life in rural America.

“I think that means making Rural America a great place for young families,” O’Brien said.

The Under Secretary focused on the “bio economy” that includes more than foods and textiles, discussing an entire range of biomass that can be used to create products and energy.

“All these require a clean, reliable water source,” O’Brien said. “You are the foundation for opportunity in rural America.”

NRWA President Doug Anderton concluded the remarks by encouraging the representatives from NRWA’s over 31,000 members to tell their story. Because of the efforts of rural water members in their community, National Rural Water had a successful year, despite sequestration and government shut-down threatening its sources of funding.

“Every day National Rural Water is advocating for rural utilities,” he said. “We’re working to ensure our communities have a clean, reliable source of drinking water. We’re working to ensure the regulations systems must follow are affordable and based on sound science.”

Despite continuing uncertainty with the economy and the federal budget, NRWA has protected its critical Circuit Rider program and expanded its Source Water Protection programs to every state. The association has also successfully worked to have fire hydrants exempted from lead and copper rules, and to protect rural communities in the farm bill. Mike McNulty from West Virginia also testified as part of hearings regarding a chemical spill in West Virginia.

“Rural water has seen up years and down years, and we have come out stronger because of you,” Anderton said. “It is your willingness to serve and to tell your story.”

“None of this would have happened without you.”

Rural water aids Gifford after tornado

GIFFORD, Ill. – A tornado hit Gifford, Ill. on Sunday, Nov. 26th cause considerable damage, including the destruction of at least 20 homes and damage to the town’s water system.

Gifford, a village of 995 people about 10 miles north of Champaign, was hit by the tornado around 1 a.m. and four injuries were reported by Champaign County Sherriff Dan Walsh.

Because of the widespread damage, State Police limited access to the storm-damaged area. Evan Jones, a circuit rider with the Illinois Rural Water Association had to get special permission to enter the area and provide assistance. He met Jess Childress, village superintendent, at the damaged water plant.

“When I pulled up, all that was standing was the aerator and their four sand filters,” Jones explained. “They also had damage to their water tower and it was deemed unsafe to fill until inspected by the manufacturer.”

The tornado also carried away most of the utilities tools and equipment.

Work crews from nearby Paxton and Gibson City arrived and started working to help clear the streets and restore water service. Steve Johnson of EPA was also on site to provide ideas and advice. Jones started working on the village wells, testing them and pulling new wire. After about eight hours of work, the crews were able to start the water flowing.

“It was amazing, since most of the parts were scavenged from what was left of the plant,” Jones said.

The next day the crews returned and started expanding services throughout the town. They stacked hay bales around the make-shift treatment plant, helping insulate the system from the weather. Jones started creating the charts and tables necessary to track the operation of the well pumps and disinfection pumps.

Jones and Don Craig, deputy director of the Illinois Rural Water Association, then began locating service lines for crews to disconnect. Severe damage to homes and business had created several leaks that had to be isolated so that the system could maintain water pressure.

“That was one of the biggest challenges, with all the debris lying around,” Jones said.

After the second day, most of the water service had been restored to Gifford, but major repairs were still needed before the utility could be returned to normal operation.

NRWA opens 2013 H2O-XPO

2013 XPO OpeningLOUISVILLE, Ky. – The National Rural Water Association opened the 2013 H2O-XPO in a session on Oct. 1st in the Galt House Ballroom.

NRWA President Doug Anderton of Georgia began the opening by thanking staff of government agencies that were not able to attend the conference because of the recent government shutdown. His remarks include thanks for RUS Administrator John Padalino, Assistant Administrator Jackie Ponti-Jazaruk, Director of the EPS Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water Dr. Peter Grevatt, Department of Energy Senior Advisor for Clean Energy and Rural Development LeAnn M. Oliver.

“We would have lost 11 Circuit Riders last year without Jackie,” Anderton said. Circuit Riders are roving water professionals that provide technical assistance and training to systems in every state.

“Do you like delivering your CCR electronically?” Anderson asked the crowd of several thousand water and wastewater professionals. “Dr. Grevatt assisted with those efforts.”

One of rural water’s efforts the past year was the ability to deliver mandated Consumer Confidence Reports electronically. Previous those reports were required to be mailed to every customer a water system served. The change is expected to save utilities millions of dollars in cost annually.

This was only one effort were rural water had success during 2013. NRWA has also expanded its source water protection program to every state for the first time. This year’s advancements are considered a special achievement, since they were made in a challenging political and economic environment.

“We’ve had a lot of success in D.C. when a lot of others have not,” Anderton said.

A great deal of that success had been attributed to the individual efforts of water professionals that work tirelessly in the effort to supply their communities with clean drinking water, and who are willing to tell their story.

“Our success is because of each and every one of you,” Anderton said.

Anderton also thanked NRWA’s sponsors CoBank, USABlueBook, HD Supply, CST Storage Aquastore and Ford Meter Box. Their sponsorship supports NRWA activities year-round.

The combined opening session and awards ceremony capped the first day of the conference, which started that morning.

NRWA hosts 2013 awards; Minnesota Association of the Year


2013 Assn of the YearLOUISVILLE, Ky. – Staff from the Minnesota Rural Water Association jumped up and exchanged high-fives as their association was named “Association of the Year” during the 2013 Tribute to Excellence awards ceremony held October 1st as part of the H2O-XPO in Louisville, Ky.

MRWA was honored for years of consistent service, including retaining 17 staff members with a combined 225 years of service. Minnesota also won the award for Outstanding Achievement in Communications, Publications and Public Relations, recognized for its monthly newsletter and quarterly magazine. The association also recently started a notification system that can contact thousands through phone lines, e-mails and text messages.

The Florida Rural Water Association won two awards. FRWA was honored with the Outstanding Achievement in Legislative Initiatives for its effort in the campaign to have Consumer Confidence Reports delivered electronically, and actions that led to more affordable state nutrient reduction plans. Florida was also awarded the Outstanding Achievement in Technical Assistance award.

The Kentucky Rural Water Association was awarded the Outstanding Achievement in Member Services Award in honor of the range of benefits they offer to their member systems. KRWA offers a range of services, including a Finance Corporation, Recordkeeping, CCR Hosting, and Insurance programs.

The Wisconsin Rural Water Association was awarded the Outstanding Achievement in Training Award. Wisconsin Rural Water has conducted over 250 classes at 100 different locations to over 5,000 system operations specialists.

These winners were selected from 49 state associations across the nation. The National Rural Water Association Awards Committee reviews each submission with the names redacted, then scores each item to select a winner. Kent Watson of Texas chairs the committee of Phillip Combs of Tennessee, Steve Fletcher of Illinois, Paul Fulgham of Utah and Henry Meyer of Atlantic States.

Little Falls, NY wins Environment Award

2013 Enviromental AwardLOUISVILLE, Ky. – Little Falls, New York was awarded the Environmental Achievement award at this year’s Tribute to Excellence awards ceremony held on Oct. 1st as part of the H2O-XPO in Louisville, Ky.

The National Rural Water Association awards individuals or utilities that have gone beyond the normal requirements of their job to be better stewards of the environment.

The City of Little Falls, with a population of 4,800 along the Mohawk River, created a plan for Bio-solids reuse. Combating extreme cold, ice formation, snail invasions and the cost of using over 90,000 gallons of fuel to dispose of bio-solids, the city turned to an ecological approach in an abandoned coal mine reclamation project. This land application is now responsible for a sustainable, hay production initiative.