Utah Rural Water Assists Community with High-Pressure Leaks

DUCHESNE, Utah – Jeff Schnar stood at the base of the mountain where a pair of leaks and 310 psi water pressure had knocked out service for 168 customers of the South Duchesne Culinary Water System in Duchesne, Utah. Assistance from the Rural Water Association of Utah helped protect the public health, repair the leaks and restore service.

“He called and mentioned he had a leak on his system,” explained Jake Wood, a Circuit Rider with RWAU. “The utility had been without water for about 24 hours.”

Circuit Riders are roving water experts that provide training and technical assistance to small utilities. They are prized for their expertise and for their dedication. Even though the federal agencies that help fund the Circuit Riders were furloughed by the government shutdown, Wood was on-site to assist the next day.

“I called Jake that night, and he left immediately so he could be on-site the next day at 7 a.m.,” said Schnar, the Manager and Water System Operations Specialist for the South Duchesne Culinary Water System.

The next day, Schnar and Wood began working to repair the leak. The extreme elevation difference in the distribution system created high pressures that complicated the repairs. Schnar shut off the sources to help alleviate the pressure. They also called a contractor to help excavate the leak, because the mains were buried ten feet deep and the leak had saturated the area.

“In the meantime, I got them the documents to issue a boil water advisory,” Wood said.

He also helped issue the boil water advisory and coordinate alternate water supplies for the community.

“We collected bottled water in case customer were in need,” Wood said. “They were also hauling in water with tankers. It’s required that you test for a chlorine residual and document each load, so I made sure they had a procedure to properly test and document.”

Once the leak was excavated, Wood assisted with the repairs.

“There was water spraying, but Jake isn’t afraid to get wet,” Schnar said. “He was down in the hole just like me or my crew.”

Once the leaks were repaired, crews began restoring water pressure and flushing fire hydrants to clear the mains of any contaminants. They then took five bacteriological samples to ensure the system was safe before lifting the boil water advisory.

“Rural Water is such a benefit,” Schnar said. “Everything they do really helps my system, and Jake really goes above and beyond.”

Rural Water Helps Community with Testing, Gets Water Well Back On-Line

Gordon Meyer reviews sampling procedures with Joe Christmas.

MILROY, Ind. – The Anderson Township Regional Sewer District needed two clear tests before they could put a recently-cleaned water well back into service, except the test result showed signs of fecal coliform bacteria. Assistance from the Alliance of Indiana Rural Water helped disinfect the well and bring it back on-line.

“They just had a well cleaned and they need two consecutive clear Bac-T tests before they could put it back on-line,” explained Gordon Meyer, an Alliance Circuit Rider who provides training and technical assistance to small communities.

The community had tested the well but, the results came back showing the presence of bacteria. Meyer advised Water Superintendent Joe Christmas to super chlorinate the well and allowing it to sit for 24 hours. Once the excess chlorine was flushed from the well, the community could sample and test again. Christmas followed the procedure, but the test again showed signs of bacteria.

Meyer visited the system and started evaluating the well and the community’s testing procedures. He learned that the well had been left uncapped after the cleaning, and the well may have been contaminated.

“I supervised while a contracted mixed another solution to super chlorinate the well and properly replaced the well cap,” Meyer said.

The chlorine solution would need to be in contact with the well for at least 24 hours to be effective. Meyer and Christmas reviewed Anderson’s sampling procedures to ensure they were getting accurate results from their tests.

“I asked if he had sprayed the sampling tap with chlorine and how long he let the water run before taking a sample,” Meyer explained. “We sprayed the sampling tap and I advised Joe to let the water run for a few minutes before taking a sample.”

Anderson Township utility.

Disinfecting the sampling tap ensures that no outside bacteria have contaminated the sample. Letting the water run helps ensure that the sample is coming from the well and not water that may be left in the line prior to the disinfection process.

“After 24 hours, they tested and this time it came back negative for fecal coliform,” Meyer said. “I told them to wait 24 hours and sample again.”

After the second test came back clear, Anderson Township was able to put the second well back on-line. Meyer has remained in contact with the system.

“They have two wells that require different levels of chlorination,” Meyer said. “Right know they are trying to balance each well, but everything else it is going good.”

Mississippi Rural Water Assists Community After Flood

SHUQUALAK, Miss. – “Let me get my boots on, I’ll be right there,” Tom Abernathy said when the Shuqualak Butler Water Association called him on the Saturday a flood destroyed one of their water lines.

“We had a seven-inch rain and the flood that came washed out a creek crossing,” said Tom Hindman, the Shuqualak Butler Water Operations Specialist. “It left about 200 homes without water.”

Shuqualak Butler has an emergency connection with a neighboring water utility, but the same flood damaged part of their distribution system and could not supply enough emergency water. The damaged main was leaking over 200 gallons per minute. Hindman thought the break was in the creek, but needed assistance locating it. That’s when he contacted Abernathy for assistance.

Exposed water line ready for repair.

“It was a Saturday and I was on vacation, but I told him I’d be there in a couple of hours,” Abernathy said. He is a Circuit Rider with the Mississippi Rural Water Association.

Circuit Riders are roving water professionals that provide technical assistance to water systems. Abernathy has over 30 years of experience in the water and wastewater industry, including 20 managing the utility operations of a small community.

When Abernathy was on-site, he began working to locate the leak.

“We found the leak, but the water was still to high,” Hindman said.

Abernathy devised a plan to install valves that would allow Shuqualak Butler to isolate the leak and restore service to some of the impacted homes.

“Tom stayed late into the night helping us,” Hindman said. “We were able to put in some valves and run some crossovers to get water back to our customers.”

Abernathy returned the next day to help locate and repair the leak.

“Tom was really a lot of assistance,” Hindman said. “We’ve worked with Mississippi Rural Water before and that’s just the way they are.”

MRWA Assistance Helps Community Repair Seemingly Impossible Leak Under Lake

ELYSIAN, Minn. – Ron Greenwald stood on the lake shore in Elysian, Minn., trying to find a way to repair a leak under eight feet of water. Assistance from the Minnesota Rural Water Association helped run a temporary service line and locate critical pipes so that Elysian could repair the leak at considerable savings.

“We had a substantial leak that was causing a loss of pressure,” said Greenwald, the Elysian Water Superintendent. “We knew it was in an eight-inch line under the lake that fed a subdivision.”

Elysian workers took a boat onto the lake to try to spot any sign of pressurized water under the surface. They found water bubbling to the surface over 60 yards from shore. That’s when they contacted Minnesota Rural Water for assistance.

“They asked if I had equipment that could locate a leak under a lake,” said Jeff Dale, an MRWA Circuit Rider. Circuit Riders are roving water experts that provide technical assistance to communities in their area. “Unfortunately, the pipe was HDPE, which doesn’t conduct sound. There’s not many ways to locate a leak under eight feet of water.”

Elysian planned to run a temporary water service line that would supply the subdivision water while the city laid a new water main to the peninsula.

“There’s no easy way to repair a broken pipe under eight feet of water,” Dale said.

While the city consulted with a engineers and contractors about the temporary service line, Dale assisted crews by locating where the water line entered the lake and emerged again on the peninsula. Dale’s line locating equipment found where the main entered the peninsula and revealed that there was no valve that could be used to isolate the broken line. The city had a contractor install a new valve to close both ends of the broken line.

Once the valve was installed, Elysian had a plan to run an eight-inch temporary line to the peninsula.

“The original plan was to run an eight-inch line from fire hydrant to fire hydrant,” Greenwald explained.

Running the eight-inch line would cost Elysian several thousand dollars and require several weeks to acquire materials.

“It would be a week or more for the contractor to get the eight-inch pipe,” Greenwald said. “We also needed to find fittings that would join the eight-inch to the fire hydrants.”

Dale examined the plan and started calculating if Elysian needed such a large main to supply the homes on the peninsula.

“He asked us some questions about our flow and pressure and ran some calculations,” Greenwald said.

After consulting with the Operations Specialist at a nearby utility, Dale concluded that Elysian could supply the subdivision with only a two-inch temporary line.

“I did some calculations and discussed it with Dominic Jones from Red Rock Rural Water,” Dale explained. “We were confident they could adequately supply that subdivision with a two-inch line.”

Using two-inch water line would save the community thousands of dollars and speed up the repair process.

“The contractor had plenty of two-inch line in his yard, and we wouldn’t need special fittings to connect to the hydrants,” Greenwald said. “The project went from a two-week to a one-day time frame.”

Elysian laid the two-inch temporary line along a bike path and connected to the nearest fire hydrant for the subdivision. The city switched to the temporary line without a disruption in service.

“The two-inch line worked great,” Dale said. “No one noticed a change.”

“It was a great idea,” Greenwald said. “He saved us thousands of dollars.”

With the temporary line in place, Elysian began working to repair the leaking main. During the work, they located the leak at a coupling that was much closer to shore. The pressure from the water main pushed the leaking water along the line and made it appear the leak was much farther into the lake. Elysian was able to make the repair without dewatering part of the lake or running a new main.

“Jeff helped us a lot,” Greenwald said. “He’s a great asset to small communities.”

Louisiana Rural Water Locates Mystery Leak Near Hospital, Saves Community Thousands in Repair Costs

WINNFIELD, La. – When a mystery leak started intruding into a drain pipe at the Winn Parish Medical Center in Winnfield, La., the community was faced with thousands of dollars in repair costs from digging around the hospital structures. Assistance from the Louisiana Rural Water Association helped located the leak under an open area of ground and save the community thousands in repairs.

“There was a leak near one of the drains next to the hospital emergency room,” said LRWA Circuit Rider David Ryals. “They had water running out of the drain onto the street.”

Because it was intruding into a drain pipe, the leak was extremely difficult to locate. Any potential repairs were complicated by proximity of the hospital. Most of the area was paved in concrete or covered by hospital structures.

“We didn’t know where to dig,” said Eugene Jones, the Public Works Director for the City of Winnfield. “We were about to break up all the concrete.”

Ryals had a creative solution to the problem. He had an inspection camera with a long cable that would fit into the drain.

“We normally use the camera to inspect sewer lines, but it would let us see what was happening inside the drain,” Ryals explained.

He ran the camera lead into the drain. Ryals saw the water leaking into the drain at a joint roughly 20 feet from where the drain emptied. It put the leak under one of the few areas on the property not covered in concrete or under a structure.

“I’ll never forget the look on their faces,” Ryals said.

With the leak located under open ground, city crews were able to dig up and repair the leak without costly damage to the surrounding pavement and structures.

“It was incredible,” Jones said. “LRWA’s staff and equipment saved us thousands of dollars.”

“The Louisiana Rural Water Association and its staff stands committed to assisting all water and wastewater systems with any problems they may incur,” said Patrick Credeur, LRWA Executive Director.

New Farm Bill is now law and Congress Agrees – Local Decisions are Best

The 2018 Farm Bill, also referred to as the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, passed with overwhelming bipartisan and bicameral support.  Congress recognized that local decision making for community water supplies is a necessary ingredient in determining their future.

With input on specific issues from a broad spectrum of organizations and entities, the Farm Bill process is complex. One of the contested issues was the sustainability of rural community water supplies around the nation.  Some entities, many times for self-serving purposes, promoted forced consolidation that were primarily directed at rural America.  The National Rural Water Association (NRWA) with over 31,000 members, has always supported consolidation when the decision is made at the local level after consideration of all options to enhance long term sustainability.

In addressing this issue within the Farm Bill, the following language, promoted by NRWA, was included in relation to sustainability issues within a rural or small water and/or wastewater facility:  ‘‘(iv) identify options to enhance the long-term sustainability of rural water and waste systems, including operational practices, revenue enhancements, partnerships, consolidation, regionalization, or contract services;”

This provision in the Farm Bill will allow the agency to support third- party entities without financial stake in the outcome to review all available financial and operations options to make a sound fiscal and policy decisions.  This will result in the best long-term interest of the community and their customers.  We applaud Congress and the President for supporting this effort.


DUNCAN, Okla. –  The National Rural Water Association’s (NRWA) 31,000 water and wastewater system members applaud President Trump for signing H.R. 2, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 on December 20th, 2018. NRWA would also like to thank Chairman Roberts, Chairman Conaway, Ranking Member Stabenow, Ranking Member Peterson and their staffs for crafting this legislation that will directly benefit rural America.

Rural and small communities owe a great debt of gratitude to these agriculture champions for recognizing and supporting water infrastructure investments specifically targeted to communities with populations less than 10,000 persons. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Water and Wastewater loan and grant program will provide for the necessary resources to address critical rural water infrastructure projects. In addition, Circuit Rider technical assistance, grassroots source water protection and wastewater technical assistance will allow for uninterrupted water and sanitation service to water utilities in small and rural communities across the country. No community can prosper or be sustainable without reliable and affordable water and wastewater service.  With these federal investments, rural and small-towns across the country will be much stronger.

For over 70 years, Congress has authorized and strengthened USDA’s rural water initiatives which have made great advancements in the standard of living in rural America.  Small and rural communities primarily rely on the USDA’s Rural Development Water and Waste Water Programs as the affordable choice to finance their utilities. Most U.S. water utilities are small; over 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 wastewater systems serve fewer than 10,000 people. The rural water infrastructure provisions included in HR 2 will continue to be the engine of economic development and agricultural-related advances in rural communities. We would like to thank the President and Congress for the specific provisions contained within the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 as follows:

  • Section 6402: Expands the eligibility to the Water and Waste Water Guaranteed Loan program to 50,000 population with priority for communities under 10,000. This change will provide an additional financial option for small and rural communities to upgrade, modernize and construct water and waste water facilities in areas that still experience limited access to credit.
  • Section 6403: Authorizes U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) 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 invested over $55 billion in rural America.
  • Expansion of Section 6404: expands existing technical assistance to include providing local communities with long-term water infrastructure sustainability through intergovernmental partnerships, regionalization, and voluntary consolidation. Rural utilities will be able to receive third party independent financial and operational assessments necessary to present all options available for local decision makers to make sound financial and sustainable decisions for their utilities and their customers. Additional authority to target emerging contaminants of drinking and surface water supplies will preserve and enhance the health and vitality of these communities.
  • Section 6405: 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 response.  According to small and rural communities, this initiative is the most effective and efficient direct compliance assistance with the Safe Drinking Water Act and Clean Water Act.

NRWA commends Congress and the Administration for yet again providing dramatic improvements to the quality of life, the environment and public health in rural America. NRWA has a long-standing, productive and successful partnership with the US Department of Agriculture and looks forward continuing to work together to benefit rural America and its residents.

NRWA Opens Call for Abstracts for 2019 WaterPro Conference in Nashville, Tenn.

DUNCAN, Okla. – The National Rural Water Association has opened a call for abstracts for the 2019 WaterPro Conference, to be held September 9 – 11, 2019 at the Gaylord Opryland in Nashville, Tennessee.

NRWA is looking for experienced professionals and outstanding leaders to present on a wide variety of current challenges and opportunities for our attendees. Those interested in presenting on topics related to Workforce Development, Board Management and Leadership, Technological Innovations, Disaster Response and Recovery and/ or Sustainability and Partnerships can submit abstracts at www.waterproconference.org/call/.

All abstracts will be reviewed by Conference staff. Speakers may be contacted to ask for additional information on the presentations submitted. Speakers will be contacted about speaking opportunities if their presentation is selected.

Further details about the conference can be found at www.waterproconference.org.

Maine Rural Water Assists Community with Leak that Drains Half of Reservoir

DEXTER, Maine – Tom Crawford checked the Dexter reservoir in the morning and saw it had lost nearly half its water, and levels were dropping fast. Timely assistance from the Maine Rural Water Association helped locate a leak in an unknown water main and prevent the community from losing water.

Broken six-inch line.

“It was a real emergency,” explained Crawford, the Superintendent for the Dexter Utilities District. “Within four hours we lost over half a million gallons.”

Dexter utility workers tried to locate the leak on their own, but they didn’t have the necessary equipment. In some cases, they resorted to holding screwdrivers to fire hydrants to try to listen to leaks. There was no sign of water rising to the surface, which should occur with such a large water loss. That’s when they contacted MRWA for assistance.

“I had just arrived at a training class when Dexter called,” said Andy Gilson, an MRWA Circuit Rider. “They were in a panic because the reservoir was dropping like a rock.”

Gilson started using listening equipment to narrow down the location of the leak. He identified a general position for the leak, but Dexter officials didn’t know of any possible lines in the area.

“It happens all the time,” Gilson said. “There’s a lot of stuff that people put into the ground and no one recorded the location.”

Gilson used data loggers to trace potential locations for the leak. The loggers collect information such as noise or, in some cases, water pressure over time to locate potential leaks. The loggers narrowed the leak to a neighborhood near a stream, but utility personnel didn’t know of any other lines in the area. Gilson used a metal detector along the mapped water line and located a previously-unknown valve.

“There was a bump and as soon as I saw it I knew there was a v

Diverting the stream to make repairs to the broken main.

alve there,” Gilson said. “Frost had raised and lowered the valve and worked it to the surface. They didn’t have to dig far to uncover it.”

The valve connected to a six-inch line that lead toward a neighborhood across the stream.

“The system personnel knew the neighborhood was being served by a main from the other side, but they didn’t know there was a second main that crossed the stream,” Gilson said.

The Circuit Rider used a line locator to follow the main to another valve near the stream. He used that valve to isolate the main and confirm that the leak was somewhere under the stream. The repair required the utility to divert the stream and replace ten feet of main under the stream. It was a complicated process that required the cooperation of Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection.
Gilson’s assistance helped prevent Dexter from losing water and located a difficult leak.

“Andy is really good at what he does,” Crawford said. “He was a huge help to our community. I don’t know if I could have found it without him.”

Rural Water Teams Restore Water, Wastewater Service to Devastated Mexico Beach Florida

MEXICO BEACH, Fla. – When Phillip Hall drove into the Mexico Beach water plant and saw the water tower laying on the ground storage tank, he knew the city’s water system was significantly damaged.

“When I pulled into the yard and saw that tower down, I just knew,” said Hall, the Mexico Beach public works director. “The whole system was entirely inoperable.”

Rural Water staff install a hydrant valve to isolate a damaged main.

Mexico Beach was completely without power. Hurricane Michael leveled swaths of the city, and it’s estimated that 70% of the city’s structures will have to be demolished. Water main breaks made it impossible to restore service to some sections of the city. Several of the wastewater lift stations were damaged.

“Mexico Beach was essentially ground zero for the hurricane’s impact,” said Gary Williams, executive director of the Florida Rural Water Association. “There is Katrina-type devastation in places along the coast.”

Entire streets were washed away, complicating the relief efforts until crews could fill and patch the damaged roads. Even weeks after landfall, rural water still had to contend with rough, temporary fills and patches on Highway 98 with some side streets washed out and impassable.

“It took us a while to get in here because the roads were so damaged,” Williams said.

Assistance from Rural Water started to restore service to the devastated city.

“We’ve had some amazing people come help us,” Hall said.

Rural water crews repairing a damaged water line.

From the beginning, Rural Water was committed to a long-term relief effort.

“When I got here, I told them ‘Rural Water is all-in, and we’ll stay here until you don’t need us any more,’” Williams said.

Emergency generators from the Alabama Rural Water Association, Georgia Rural Water Association, Louisiana Rural Water Association and Florida Rural Water Association helped provide power to the treatment plants, master meters and lift stations. Some of the generators have operated continuously for over 10 days supplying power.

“We’ve had to service a lot of this equipment in the field,” Williams said. “Some of these generators have run for two weeks – they need things like oil and filters, and of course fuel.”

Once supplied with emergency power, rural water crews began assisting the city with the work of restoring water and wastewater services. The work effort included crews from the Rural Water Associations and over 300 utility workers from utilities across Florida.

“They shut off meters, repaired water lines and fixed lift station panels,” Hall said.

It was a massive effort that mobilized dozens of work crews to repair and replace significant damage.

Rural Water working around heavy machinery and damaged infrastructure to repair a water line.

“This has been a lot more than the typical response, which is generators and pumps,” Williams said. “This has been completely rebuilding the water and wastewater infrastructure, including laying new water and wastewater lines.”

It was a relief effort the city did not have the spare material or cash reserves to support. FRWA and the State Revolving Loan Fund committed to purchasing $120,000 of parts and material to help rebuild the system.

“When the work crews show up, they have to have something work with,” Williams said. “It’s a credit to the Florida Rural Water board of directors and membership, because without them we’d have nothing to bring to the table.”

Roughly 18 days since the hurricane made landfall, 60% of the city has its water restored and 75% of the lift stations are back online. The water plant is running on automated mode and the chlorination system is at 100%. It’s a significant achievement that would not be possible without Rural Water.

“What Rural Water is doing is invaluable to these communities,” Hall said. “We have 20 employees in public works. We could have gotten everything back eventually, but it would have taken months.”

Preparing to install a new valve and hydrant. The hurricane tore the previous hydrant completely from the ground.

The recovery was especially complicated because city workers were dealing with personal losses as well as city damage. Hall himself would take off work the next day to meet with insurance adjusters.

“All their employees came back after the storm, which shows a great dedication and commitment to the customers of Mexico Beach,” Williams said.

Rural Water’s effort has earned the praise of the Mexico Beach community.

“I cannot put into words how helpful Rural Water had been,” he said. “I’ve told all of them ‘helpful is just not kind enough.’”

For Williams, it is another example of the community of rural water systems and the power of systems aiding other systems.

“The Rural Water family pulled together, like they always do, to alleviate the suffering of the public,” he said.