Iowa Rural Water Assists with Recovery Efforts in Hamburg

Iowa endured historic flooding along with other Midwestern states last month and conditions worsened for Hamburg, Iowa when the levees broke on March 17. Iowa Rural Water Association Circuit Rider Zeb McFarland headed out to assist in recovery and assessed the damaged areas with Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR).

After sitting down with city employees, a plan was developed. Parts of the water system that were still under water were closed. At the time McFarland and IDNR were on-site, a Do-Not-Use advisory was issued due to the inability to maintain pressure. IDNR requested that the city immediately start chlorinating the system. McFarland started contacting chemical companies and other cities to gather the supplies and equipment that would be needed.

“The city’s normal supplier was also flooded out and could not supply them with chlorine or anything else,” said McFarland.

After locating a city that had a spare pump and carboy of chlorine on hand, McFarland traveled 100 miles round trip to pick up the supplies. He returned and immediately began setting up a temporary treatment plant and tapping the main for an injection point. After some on-site water testing for ammonia with his SL1000 Hach tester, he was able to set the right chlorine dosage for disinfection.

On March 27, McFarland returned to Hamburg to check on the conditions of the temporary treatment plant and pump system. To meet the water needs of the community, Hamburg was also trucking water. McFarland received a report from the water system that the pressure was slowly rising, but leaks are still possible in the flooded part of the system.

“They are hoping for the water to recede, at which time they will continue to find and isolate valves,” said McFarland.

He identified 0.89 mg/L of free chlorine and 1.19 mg/L total chlorine at the source entry point that day.

“The system had to overcome ammonia in the raw water to achieve the free chlorine,” noted McFarland of the chlorine amounts.

Not only was McFarland assisting Hamburg, but other areas as well such as Glenwood, Iowa. As recovery continues, McFarland and Iowa Rural Water Association plan to maintain assistance to ensure that the water system in Hamburg returns to normal operations.

NRWA Apprenticeship Program Partners with California State University


Duncan, Okla. – NRWA and California State University at Sacramento, Office of Water Programs (OWP) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on February 26, 2019, recognizing the Office of Water Programs Operator Courses as quality training that may be utilized in the NRWA Apprenticeship Program.

“NRWA recognizes the importance of consistent core training for the overall occupational training combined with the flexibility for the licensing and certification needs of each state,” said Shannan Walton, NRWA Apprenticeship Program Manager. “In order to create uniformity, NRWA wanted curriculum that all 49 State Associations can build upon and develop the next generation of well-qualified water and wastewater operation specialists. We believe that’s what the OWP will do.”

Launched in July 2017, the NRWA Apprenticeship Program now has 17 approved State Association programs and 13 that are in the process of developing an apprenticeship program. The OWP will help State Associations fulfill the NRWA Apprenticeship related instruction requirements by including the OWP in the apprenticeship curriculum.

OWP will provide instructor guide materials to NRWA-verified instructors to educate registered apprentices in a State Association apprenticeship program.  The material presented in these guides provides instructors with additional resources for developing class materials and course exams.

Each state association with an apprenticeship program must verify and approve an instructor for that individual to receive the OWP instructor guide materials. Registered apprentices will also be able to purchase training manuals and other supplemental learning resources directly from OWP that help them meet program requirements and get access to current job-related information.

The NRWA Apprenticeship Program, that has two apprenticeship options of water or wastewater operation specialists, requires each apprentice to participate in approximately 288 hours of related instruction that may be delivered in a classroom, through occupational or industrial courses, or by correspondence courses.

“The objective of the NRWA Apprenticeship Program guideline standards is to create skilled, professional utility workers in all phases of the industry,” stated Matt Holmes, NRWA Deputy CEO. “The OWP will enhance our State Association apprenticeship programs to reach this objective and help ensure that safe, affordable drinking water continues to be provided to our small communities.”

The OWP is recognized as one of the leading national training programs for operators and managers of drinking water and wastewater plants and facilities. Over one million operator and manager training manuals have been sold throughout the world and translated into many different languages.

Many in the water industry are familiar with the affordable training materials and programs produced by OWP, which was established by Dr. Ken Kerri over 40 years ago. Dr. Kerri’s main goal was to help operators do their jobs better. OWP training materials are considered a benchmark for water industry operator instructional materials and still known to many as “the Ken Kerri manuals.”

“This agreement is a natural partnership between OWP, as operator training developer, and NRWA and State Associations as training delivery organizations,” said Dr. Ramzi Mahmood, long-time OWP director.

NRWA is also currently working on tracking software and a learning management system that State Associations will be able to access. These additions will help states maintain records and provide more resources as the apprenticeship programs develop further.

WaterPro 2019: You’re Invited to the Industry Event of the Year

Duncan, Okla. – The WaterPro Conference, coordinated by the National Rural Water Association, will be held in Nashville, TN at the Gaylord Opryland Resort, September 9 – 11.

This event brings together  water and wastewater utility systems – large and small, municipal and rural – for sessions in operations, management, boardsmanship and governance. Registration has been opened for all to attend on the WaterPro Conference website,

The Gaylord Opryland Resort will serve as the perfect venue to host this year’s conference as it provides the location for all sessions, events, registration, exhibits and sleeping accommodations. Not to mention that it allows you to hit all the high notes of Music City both in the area and under our roof including its new high-scale indoor water park, Soundwaves. Reserve your room now at the discounted room block rate.

NRWA invites you to come for the networking, educational sessions and the latest in innovation and technology in our exhibit hall and explore all that Nashville has to offer.


Widespread Flooding Impacts Nebraska

Nearly eight million people were under flood warnings in the Midwest on Tuesday March 12, after a “bomb cyclone” had blown its way through. Flood waters were especially widespread in Nebraska, with Gov. Pete Ricketts saying it was the “most widespread disaster we have had in our state’s history.” (

Snowfall amounted to 12-17 inches in places such as Scottsbluff and Chadron, and varying rainfall totals of 2.27-4 inches across the state. This precipitation fell on frozen ground, and even more rain fell after the initial blizzard, melting the snow. With the ground being too frozen to absorb the water, it flowed into rivers and low areas. Thus, the flooding ensued.

One town, Peru, Nebraska in Nemaha County, encountered the flood waters nearly reaching rooftops at the water treatment plant and well house. With access cut off to the facility because of the flooding, the nearby city of Auburn is trucking in water with the use of three semi-trucks normally used to deliver dairy products.

With the compromised water system and continued flooding expected, bottled water is being distributed to several rural areas in Nebraska.

Ken Swanson with Auburn Utilities said, “We are keeping up but the college is set to reopen and that presents a challenge. The search is on to find a portable treatment facility.”

The town of Peru not only had its population of just less than 1,000 to think of, but also Peru State College which has nearly 2,500 students enrolled. Peru State College has suspended classes until further notice. (Lincoln Journal Star)

Alongside Swanson was Randy Hellbusch, Circuit Rider with Nebraska Rural Water Association, to help assist and assess the emergency situation.

“There isn’t a lot more to do now than monitor the situation. We are focused on keeping the system pressurized and there is a dire need to find a portable water treatment facility,” said Hellbusch.

After a few days of searching, Nebraska Rural Water Association was instrumental in locating a portable water treatment facility for the city.

“Nebraska Rural Water Association is currently assisting with constant monitoring and sampling until the treatment facility arrives and is functioning,” Hellbusch informed.

The flooding is so high that Hellbusch said he couldn’t even get close enough to take a picture of the water treatment facility or well house. He will be back on-site as soon as the flooding starts to recede to help with the cleanup and operations such as flushing and chlorinating the system.

“We have our hands tied until the water recedes, which really makes it tough,” says Hellbusch.

Something truly interesting about this situation is a home that is quite close to the well house and treatment facility was built in 1899, and this is the very first time the home has ever flooded.

With the flooding in Nebraska being so widespread, multiple Circuit Riders and Wastewater Technicians from Nebraska Rural Water Association are on the job assisting other areas and systems that have been affected by the flooding.

Conservation Starts Conversations

In conjunction with US EPA’s Fix a Leak we want to share this article from Rural Water.

By Tim Roberston, CEO, SaveWaterSaveMoney

Last week, I came home from the supermarket with a big smile on my face. I’d managed to pick up a huge T-Bone steak at the end of its shelf life, saving me 30% off the original price. I thought myself lucky. A lady ahead of me had picked it up and then put it back in the fridge, choosing instead to place a similar-sized, full-price steak in her cart.

When you think about it, this lady and I had the same information, but chose to take different paths. Whatever her reasons, hers was to opt to pay the full price for pretty much the same product; mine was to opt for the discount because that suited my schedule (I had no plans that evening) and my pocket.

The NRWA Savings Engine acts in exactly the same way. It’s a simply designed, web-based app that asks customers a series of tailored questions about their current water and energy use. Using some clever algorithms, it then presents back the information via a dashboard personalized to each home. This includes a series of recommendations to help people reduce their consumption. Ranging from simple ways to prevent water being wasted which includes identifying a leaking toilet or reducing time spent in the shower.

Digitization can present challenges to those who aren’t sufficiently informed. We’ve heard from water suppliers all around the world that less water means less revenue. Business isn’t so clean cut. Managing costs is also a good way to generate greater profits. While customers come away with a feeling of empowerment – they can return to their personalized dashboard at any time to review their results or take and update on any actions they choose to take – Utilities receive a whole bunch of benefits, too.

Improved Customer Expectations = Fewer Billing Surprises

For the very first time, and with zero integration with their own software or digital programs, state associations or systems can offer their customers a platform through which they can begin and maintain a dialogue with their customers. This can lead to cost-savings. For example, customer service can be improved as expectations are managed via the portal, reducing the volume and duration of unwanted calls through improved customer expectations and fewer bill surprises. Operations will benefit from cost reduction and streamlining by shifting customers to online billing. Marketing via customers’ personalized portals becomes low-cost and highly targeted. Think about it. Drought messaging will target where in the home the customer uses water the most. Leakage targets can be met in part by helping customers identify supply pipe leaks and offering simple, hassle-free remedies to fix them, and more importantly report back on those fixes.

Data Informs Utility Operations and Helps to Better Manage Demand

For the very first time, water utilities have access to Big Data. Easily translatable information about their customers at a highly granular level, including water and energy use by appliance and behavior, potential savings including energy, household occupancy, size of residence to enable ‘same home’ analysis. This information will empower utilities to tailor customer engagement to better manage demand, customer services, internal contact center costs, resources and expenditure, broadly referred to as the four pillars:

  • Sustainability
  • Availability
  • Security
  • Affordability

One or more of these pillars will likely resonate with each utility, depending on its own objectives and operational influences.

For utilities facing the continuous pressures of climate volatility, decreasing source water quality, and aging treatment and distribution infrastructure, the NRWA Savings Engine offers an easy way for customers to understand how their actions can directly impact the sustainability of their local water supplies. For those with increasing populations and demands on water supply, the NRWA Savings Engine allows utilities to maximize the embedded capacity in existing infrastructure by understanding how, when and why we use water. This in turn enables utilities to refine their water efficiency, leakage and educational strategies to effect water consumption demands while considering local, regional and national considerations.

Water utilities have limited channels through which to communicate to their customers. In times of adverse weather, for example drought or flooding, they tend to revert to local or state-wide mass media which carries broad messaging around general awareness aimed at all customers, but specifically at none. This approach is limited and doesn’t take account of individual water uses. For example, “Don’t use sprinklers” has little relevance to people who live in apartments; and “Take shorter showers” means nothing to people who have no idea how long is short.

With email addresses from those customers who opt-in to receive further communications (this is the only information the NRWA Savings Engine receives), and by providing customers with a platform to interact with their utility, the Savings Engine ensures efficiency of costs to serve, thereby minimizing rate impacts which would be passed on to customers.

The improved transparency the Savings Engine provides for both customers and water utilities will in turn lead to improved customer trust in their water utility and a higher value being placed on water. In our highly digitized and informed world, the NRWA Savings Engine is unique, providing people with information they don’t already have, hence their curiosity. But like everything else in the world of online solutions, the decision to act is left to us humans to take. That’s where the complexities begin.

I’ll be back in my supermarket again later this week. The discounted steak was good, but I’ll probably look for something else. If I find an offer, I may or may not take it. I guess it depends on my mood, do I want it, how long does it take to cook, am I busy that night, have I just been paid and so on. Just knowing discounted products allows me to feel in control.

 Visit the NRWA Savings Engine to save water, save money!

National Effort to Protect Water Supplies

This article is a piece taken from the feature story of this quarter’s Rural Water magazine. To read the full article and other stories, visit the digital edition of Rural Water.

By Paul Hempel and Kimberly Mihelich, Colorado Rural Water Association

The Farm Bill was re-authorized by Congress in December 2018 with overwhelming bipartisan support and includes more emphasis on the importance of source water protection. The Farm Bill directs the USDA, via the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), when implementing any conservation program, to “encourage practices that relate to water quality and water quantity that protect source water for drinking water while also benefitting agricultural producers.” The bill directs USDA to work collaboratively with community water systems to identify local priority areas for source water protection efforts and to offer additional incentives to encourage farmers to employ conservation efforts that benefit source water protection.

Finally, the updated bill requires USDA to set aside at least 10 percent of total conservation program funding each year for use on projects focused on source water protection. These provisions are intended to make USDA “emphasize the importance of protecting sources of drinking water” in its bevy of conservation programs. These include a reauthorization of the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), which offers USDA grant assistance to farmers who partner with nearby water utilities and other local stakeholders on joint projects that protect or improve water quality or meet other stated environmental objectives. The reauthorization amends RCPP to explicitly make projects related to the “protection of source waters for drinking water” an eligible expense for RCPP assistance.

CRWA is in the initial stages of planning exactly this type of project. In 2016, CRWA worked with Dallas Creek Water Company located outside of Ridgway, CO to complete a SWPP. Sedimentation and turbidity were determined to be the highest priority potential contaminants to their source waters. In addition to the NRCS and Dallas Creek Water Company, CRWA will be partnering with the CDPHE, Shavano Conservation District and local landowners on a project to identify and mitigate areas in the watershed that are experiencing stream bank erosion.

CRWA has collaborated on additional projects to advance source water protection planning throughout Colorado including the production of the Sedgwick County Children’s Water Festival in September 2018. The purpose of the festival was to educate students, grades 3 – 6, about water resources and present ways they can help ensure a future where both the quantity and quality of water resources are protected and managed wisely. Students spent half a school day attending water-related presentations and visiting interactive displays in a local exhibit hall. The presentations engaged students in water education activities on topics including water origination, water conservation and water quality. Over 300 students attended the festival and because of the dedicated work performed by CRWA, the event was a success.

Many SWP plans in Colorado involve opening modes of communication between the oil and gas community and drinking water providers, and in 2016, CRWA produced the “Protecting Source Water in Colorado During Oil and Gas Development” guide. The guide describes how oil and gas development could impact source water; the regulatory mechanisms that local, state, and federal government agencies utilize to protect source water from potential oil and gas development impacts; and how government and non-government water providers can participate in these regulatory processes and use private agreements with oil and gas operators to protect their drinking water supplies.

To advance private landowner education in our state, CRWA produced a pair of On-site Wastewater Treatment System (OWTS) videos that educate homeowners about OWTS regulations, installation, components, and maintenance in order to prevent against OWTS failure and thus potential impacts to surface water and groundwater drinking supplies in 2017. These videos were circulated to county health departments statewide and are also on the USEPA website located under Septic Systems.

Currently, CRWA is co-producing the West Slope Source Water Protection/Keep It Clean Partnership marketing campaign. This campaign combines the efforts of water providers and watershed groups by creating a communication nexus for their constituents. The connection between healthy lakes, rivers, streams, groundwater and drinking water will be emphasized leading to a change in how the public views water in their daily activities. Two $5,000 source water protection grants from CDPHE are helping to fund the project, and a combination of eight counties and municipalities along with the White River National Forest have committed $1,000 a year for a three-year period. Keep It Clean Partnership will provide stream crossing signs, bi-lingual informational pamphlets, coloring books and informational water bill inserts to promote the campaign as a regional collaborative effort.

In 2019, CRWA is launching the Wildland Fire Decision Support System (WFDSS) integration project as part of their contract with CDPHE and in partnership with Coalitions and Collaboratives, Inc. WFDSS is a web-based tool developed by the federal government designed to assist fire managers in making streamlined decisions during wildfire response. This system makes data analyses and reports visible to all levels of federal fire managers. WFDSS integration will make water system infrastructure data, as described and deemed critical by PWS, visible to fire response teams. CRWA will be working with PWS to update and refine collection and integration of their data into WFDSS in order to expand the data set to include all water providers within the State of Colorado. Data integration will allow fire suppression and post-fire restoration managers to properly evaluate all “values at risk” and make informed decisions on how to dedicate resources to protecting critical, high value resources.

CRWA Source Water Protection specialists and our colleagues across the country see the importance of our respective roles in helping to protect community drinking water supplies. We all come equipped with a diverse skill-set, are dedicated to our jobs and passionate about our work. There is a deep feeling of pride and gratitude that goes along with being a Specialist and helping public water systems and their communities develop and implement their SWPPs.

ICYMI: Rural Water Rally 2019

Congressman Sanford Bishop (GA)

Washington, DC – Days leading up to this year’s Rally were filled with uncertainty with the longest government shutdown in U.S. history that lasted 35 days. A week before Rally was to kick-off, agreements were reached, and the government was back in business.

Despite the questionability of government activity, states scheduled appointments with elected officials and gathered information to deliver this year’s Rural Water priorities.

NRWA kicked off the 2019 Rural Water Rally on February 5 with almost 400 rural water and wastewater professionals from across the country in attendance with a welcome from NRWA President Kent Watson of Texas.

Anne Hazlett, Special Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development

Featured speakers Congressman Sanford Bishop from Georgia and both thanked attendees for the important work they undertake every day to provide clean, affordable drinking water for communities everywhere in the nation.

“You are here in our Nation’s capital to remind senators and congressman that because of you, we have a Strong America,” stated Bishop. “We can rest assure that our drinking water is safe and that are most precious resource, water, is protected.”

Bishop went into detail about his experiences with rural water and its emergency response to 2018 Tropical Storm Alberto and most recently to Hurricane Michael. He thanked Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida and his own state of Georgia for coming to the aid of his Congressional district in Southwest Georgia during this devastation.

“Team work is common practice for Rural Water and that’s how you do,” exclaimed Bishop, “You are where the rubber meets the road. Thank you!”

Congressman Bishop is the chairman of the appropriations subcommittee on agriculture, rural development, food and drug administration and has urged the continual support of rural water programs because “they are vital to a better, safer quality of life.”

Hazlett followed Bishop echoing his words that Rural Water plays a vital role in the improvement of in our small communities and rural areas. She detailed stories from her road trip where she visited 42 states in the last 18 months.

She pointed to a Superbowl commercial by Kia and how the highlighted town benefitted from USDA funding for a new water treatment plant.  Hazlett connected that with the new infrastructure to ensure clean, affordable water brings economic development.

“We see our role as being a partner to local leaders to build strong and healthy communities. Rural Development’s core mission is to increase rural prosperity,” explained Hazlett. “To accomplish that mission, we focus on improving the quality of life and fostering economic opportunity through infrastructure, partnerships and innovation.”

NRWA President Kent Watson presenting Congressman Mike Conaway (TX) with NRWA Rising Star Award

Hazlett praised Rural Water for its work with USDA and tackling challenges together to strengthen Rural America.

Other speakers during Opening Session included NRWA Vice President and Legislative Committee Chair John O’Connell, III of New York and NRWA D.C. staff Bill Simpson, Mike Keegan, Keith Heard and Michael Preston.

After Opening Session concluded, Rally attendees began making the march to the Hill to attend meetings with elected officials. These meetings continued throughout the week and will help Rural Water continue its support of providing access to affordable and safe public water and effective wastewater maintenance.

Consolidation is a real option for many small systems–if it’s their decision

This blog post, by NRWA Deputy CEO Matt Holmes, was part of an announcement on the Guiding Principles and Briefing Paper for the Strengthening of Utilities through Consolidation by US Water Alliance on February 25, 2019.

Last summer, I was fortunate to be able to participate in a dialogue examining Utility Strengthening Through Consolidation. The US Water Alliance brought together industry leaders for an important discussion in a historic setting at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge outside of San Francisco, California.

I’ve written before that it’s a difficult time to be responsible for managing a small water system. A combination of high-profile events and the public’s immediate access to information (sometimes accurate, sometimes not) has put a spotlight on longstanding challenges. The rhetoric tends to hit small communities the hardest. After all, they represent the largest percentage in the overall number of community water systems. Language like fractured, siloed, struggling, unsustainable, and distressed is an unproductive way to approach the issues we all need to tackle. In the past, some advocates have portrayed small and rural systems as dangerous violators that need to be assisted by larger utilities to survive.

Identifying anyone as “the problem” is counterproductive. Any narrative that says “everyone like this is bad, everyone like this is good” creates more separation. Ostracizing communities based on size, economics, or disadvantaged status is against the stated intentions of many advocates for consolidation as a solution. In order to be successful, utility consolidation must be about creating unity. All parties need an equal place at the table if we want to make durable, forward thinking solutions.

Two small water system managers attended the dialogue and conveyed their views. Clarence Aragon manages the Mora Mutual Water and Sewer Works Association in the mountains of northern New Mexico. Mora is an unincorporated community, partially served by Clarence’s system through 375 connections. The area has long been considered economically distressed . It also has a proud history of Hispanic settlement since 1835 and is the county seat. Clarence related his experience with consolidation over the past decade, as Mora has grappled with the costs, benefits, and consequences of a more regional approach.

“The responsibility of complying with the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Water Act rests here,” Clarence explained as the manager and sole operator. “No excuses. What is missed sometimes in these conversations is the complexity in these small systems – treatment technology, overlapping regulatory requirements, economics, and political reality.” Clarence’s perspective on the challenges facing small systems is far-reaching and impossible to relate in a short article. I believe the other water sector leaders really heard and acknowledged his contribution to the dialogue. Clarence drove home the point that small systems serve the communities they and their families live in. They are the most invested in solving the challenges they face; and any solution must have this local support.

Bud Gillin also attended the dialogue as the manager of water and sewer operations for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, located on the beautiful Flathead Indian Reservation in Montana. Bud brought a different perspective on the importance of local determination through tribal sovereignty. He underscored how water management is culturally important to many small and rural communities. For the Salish and Kootenai Tribes, these ways of life have been developed over generations of observation, experimentation, and spiritual interaction with the natural world.

Bud pointed out that large and small systems have very different problems. “The national news has highlighted systems that serve many more thousands of people than our rural systems,” Bud said. “Their focus should be on solving big-picture problems that require millions of dollars to fix. They in turn should allow the professionals like Clarence and myself the opportunity to obtain funding in an affordable scenario geared to our ability to repay for our rural systems. Together, large and small, we can solve all the clean water issues.”

The main thing I learned from the leadership dialogue was that many of the players expected the three of us to be uniformly opposed to consolidation. On the contrary, I believe today’s water utility professionals are open to considering consolidation if they feel it will benefit their customers. Our main goal in participating in the dialogue was to convey that local decision-makers are in the best position to determine what is best for their communities – a sentiment firmly conveyed in the Alliance’s latest report, Utility Consolidation: Briefing Paper. Many State and National Rural Water Association members serve as national models in creating mutually beneficial partnerships. All options should be on the table, including consolidation.

The value of these discussions is bringing people together to understand each other’s viewpoints and create conversations that otherwise would not take place. With the pendulum swinging right now towards highlighting differences, I’m grateful to the US Water Alliance in providing leadership that brings the industry closer together in pursuit of real solutions. America – large and small, rural and urban – is not fractured. Just look at the response in Florida to Hurricane Michael for the most recent example of utilities helping utilities. Rural Water will continue to embrace practical solutions in a responsible manner, while striving to be the best.

The Fabric of America

According to the US EPA, there are 50,067 community water supply systems (CWS) in the nation. Over half or 55% of these systems serve populations of 500 or less. Sustainability is a concern of regulators, legislators and interested parties and it continues to be a leading policy issue on the forefront of local governing boards, councils and the citizens they serve. However, there is no direct evidence from EPA or other reputable sources that provides a direct correlation between size of the system and sustainability.

Sustainability must first be assessed through a list of system-specific criteria such as complexity of treatment, quality of its source water, infrastructure conditions and the local economic environment. Many small systems have a high-quality source water that requires minimal equipment and treatment. These systems are small and, without question, can be labeled sustainable depending on the infrastructure and economic conditions of their customers.

The majority of small CWSs are governed by individuals that are duly elected by the residents of the municipality or customers of the district. The officials, managers and operations specialists and their families drink the water that is produced. These individuals take their duties and service to their communities extremely serious. They make sustainability decisions every day in operations, management and governance including consolidations. EPA inventory data documents these local decisions with a reduction of 3,997 systems the last 18 years.

This reduction supports a previous NRWA Sustainability Institute survey which documented that 67% of non-municipal entities, such as districts and co-ops, either receive or provide services to other entities. Likewise, 47% of municipals and 25% of privately-owned entities responding provide or receive services from other entities.

Recognizing that the fabric of our nation is comprised of small communities and understanding their value to our economy and quality of life will lead to a different view in addressing rural issues. The recognition of small systems and their value will lead to finding ways to mend that fabric as opposed to eliminating or tearing it apart.

North Carolina Rural Water Assists Community Locating Leaks, Saving Thousands of Dollars

TRYON, N. C. – A pair of leaks strained the capacity of the Tryon, N. C. water treatment plant, but assistance from the North Carolina Rural Water Association helped locate the leaks and save thousands of gallons of lost water.

“We had significant leaks,” said Greg McCool, Water Treatment Superintendent for the Town of Tryon. “The treatment plant was running an extra two hours a day just to keep up.”

Tryon was losing an estimated 150,000 gallons of water per day.

McCool called Keith Buff, a Circuit Rider with the North Carolina Rural Water Association. Circuit Riders are roving water experts that provide technical assistance to rural water utilities. In many cases, they have experience and equipment that is difficult to acquire at small communities.

“They had surveyed the entire system visually, but couldn’t find the leak,” Buff said.

Their visual search was complicated by the heavy amount of rain in North Carolina.

“In some places, they’ve received nearly 100 inches of rain this year,” Buff said. “It makes it difficult to detect leaks visually when the creeks are running dirty.”

Buff used NCRWA acoustic leak detection equipment to start surveying the distribution system.

“He found a small leak right off the bat,” McCool said.

The second, larger leak was more difficult to locate. Buff used special correlation equipment to narrow down the location of the leak.

“Every material has a known speed of sound,” Buff explained. “The correlators use two accelerometers to listen to the noise of the leak. It has algorithms built in that compute the difference in sound with the speed of the material to determine a location.”

Buff then used listening equipment to narrow the leak to a six-inch main.

“The leak was spraying directly into a culvert that drained directly into a creek,” he said.

Once the leaks were repaired, the treatment plant’s run times returned to normal. His assistance saved the town an estimated 150,000 gallons of water per day and roughly $2,700 per week.

“I always call Keith and he’s good to come out and help,” McCool said. “Rural Water is always a big help to the Town of Tryon.”