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NRWA Meets with EPA Administrator Pruitt

Posted By Allison Kaminsky, Tuesday, May 9, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, May 9, 2017

On Friday May 5, National Rural Water Association (NRWA) Officers and staff met with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt in Tulsa, Okla. The purpose of the meeting was to introduce the association to the Administrator and offer the association’s expertise and experience as a resource in regulatory affairs as they relate to rural and small community water and wastewater systems.

 

The discussions centered on regulatory fixes as identified by NRWA membership to include consecutive system issues, TMDLs and others. The Administrator stressed that the agency was in the review process of regulatory issues and encouraged the association to formerly submit comments. The attendees encouraged the agency to view rural and small systems as protectors of public health and the environment as opposed to a regulatory burden.

 

“I was very pleased that Administrator Pruitt agreed that there should be a cost benefit analysis performed on proposed regulations before they are enacted,” said NRWA Board Secretary Kent Watson, who also serves as Board Director for the Texas Rural Water Association and manages Wickson Creek Special Utility District in Bryan, Texas. 

 

“The meeting was very informative and the open discussion was very meaningful,” said NRWA President Steve Fletcher, who manages Washington County Water Company. “Hopefully this meeting is the start of a collaborative process that results in more affordability consideration in the regulatory review and processes.”

 

Senior Vice President Steve Wear, Manager of Conway County Regional Water in Arkansas; Vice President David Baird, District Coordinator, Sussex Conservation District in Delaware; Treasurer John O’Connell, Deputy Chief Operator, City of Cortland, New York; NRWA CEO Sam Wade; and NRWA Deputy CEO Matt Holmes also attended the meeting. 

Tags:  drink local water  EPA  quality on tap  rural water  water quality 

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White House Proposed Budget Cuts Endanger Rural Water & Wastewater Programs

Posted By Administration, Monday, March 20, 2017

On Thursday, the White House’s fiscal 2018 budget blueprint contained a 21 percent cut to USDA’s discretionary spending. This proposed budget would eliminate the USDA water and wastewater loan and grant program, as well as the water circuit rider program, wastewater training and technical assistance program, and energy efficiency assessment program. These programs have been the lifeline for rural water and small communities in Texas and across Rural America.

Instead, the Administration is placing its confidence with the EPA State Revolving Loan Funds. Approximately 75 percent of State Revolving Loan funding goes to systems serving over 10,000 population. Additionally, in Texas, these funds are primarily allocated to systems with compliance issues, so the larger community of rural water systems would not be able to rely solely on these funds for support.

 

There are approximately 52,000 community water supplies in the nation, of which 92 percent serve less than 10,000 population. In 2016, USDA Rural Utilities Service dedicated their funding exclusively to Rural America — 85 percent of projects were for small communities, with populations of 5,000 or less. The USDA Water and Environmental Program is a vital lifeline for rural residents funding the water infrastructure we rely on today.

 

We urge systems who have utilized any of these programs to get involved. If you have received or plan to receive funding from the USDA for infrastructure projects, benefit from your visits with your circuit rider, or rely on the expertise of our wastewater technicians, then please reach out to your congressional representatives. Tell them that investing in these USDA programs will forward the President’s mission to address the nation’s aging infrastructure in rural communities. Let them know that these programs have been effective for 70 years, that your system relies on them for financial and technical support, and that eliminating them would be detrimental for rural America. Visit http://whoismyrepresentative.com if you need help identifying your representative.

 

Established in 1969, the Texas Rural Water Association is a statewide nonprofit association dedicated to the improvement of water quality and supply in rural Texas. With an active membership consisting of nearly 750 nonprofit water supply corporations, special utility districts, municipal utility districts, small-town water departments, investor-owned utilities and individual members, TRWA members provide water and wastewater service to over 2.5 million customers throughout the state. The Association supports these members by providing them with on-site technical assistance, education and informational programs and representation in legislative and regulatory processes at both the state and federal level.  

Tags:  drink local water  funding  legislature  quality on tap  rural texas  rural water  Texas water  TRWA  USDA  water quality 

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TRWA Office Gets New Mural

Posted By Allison Kaminsky, Monday, February 27, 2017

Austin artist J Muzacz really knocked it out of the park with this beautiful mural he painted in our front staircase. He married our ideas of Texas rural water with his unique artistic vision and came up with this stained glass scene that will inspire our staff and visitors when they enter our office. The next time you're in Austin, please come by to experience it in person!

Thank you to J Muzacz for his hard work, and to SprATX for setting us up with an artist who was a perfect fit for our Association!

Tags:  art  mural  rural texas  rural water  Texas water  TRWA 

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Most People Don’t Know These 10 Things about Being a Water Utility Operator

Posted By Allison Kaminsky, Thursday, February 23, 2017

You may not realize it, but water utility operators play an important role in our society. Every day, certified water operators are ensuring we have safe drinking water by maintaining equipment and processes to monitor and affect water as it moves through the treatment and distribution cycles. The following are 10 things most people don’t know about the occupation that helps ensure our public health, making such a large impact on our lives on a daily basis.

  1. Drinking water operator certification is managed on a state-by-state basis. In Texas, licensing requirements are managed by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). Operators can be licensed in a variety of areas, including water, wastewater, distribution and reuse.
  2. Texas has required all public water systems to have a licensed operator since the 1950s, though the EPA did not require licensed operators for public water systems until 2001.
  3. Public water system operators must have at least a high school diploma or a GED, as well have required training courses and experience to test for their license. They then must renew their license every three years, requiring continuing education hours to do so.
  4. There are several levels of licensure for being a water operator. As an operator advances from a “D” to an “A” license level, their expertise expands, including a strong working knowledge of math and chemistry necessary to ensure proper chemical dosages.
  5. One major task of water operators is to disinfect our drinking water and maintain a disinfection residual, usually a form of chlorine, in the distribution system. A residual is a low level of the disinfectant that remains in the water after its initial application to protect against waterborne contaminants.
  6. To ensure the water is properly safeguarded, the water operator conducts daily tests to measure the disinfectant residual in the water distribution system.
  7. Water operators must flush all dead-end mains, and also must flush water distribution lines when they receive customer complaints. Once flushing starts, the operator cannot stop flushing until the water is clear and the desired chlorine residual is reached.
  8. Fire hydrants and flush valves are designed to catch “trash” in the water and provide a place to remove this “trash” from the distribution system. This is why fire hydrants and flush valves usually flow “dirty” water when they are first opened.
  9. On a monthly basis, water operators are required to take bacteriological samples from the water distribution system and have these samples tested by a state-approved laboratory.
  10. Operators are on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to make repairs and respond to emergencies on the water system.

The Texas Rural Water Association works hard every day to protect rural Texas’ drinking water. We have resources and expert staff that help rural and small systems with a wide-range of issues, including compliance and legal challenges. TRWA provides classroom and online training courses to help Texas water and wastewater operators get the training they need. We are here to help ensure rural Texans have access to efficient service and clean, quality drinking water. We represent over 750 small and rural utilities that serve communities that enjoy #qualityontap and #drinklocalwater.

Tags:  contamination  drink local water  education  quality on tap  rural water  Texas water  water operators  water quality 

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Groundwater Bill Seeks to Protect Water Supplies for Rural Communities

Posted By Administration, Friday, February 17, 2017

The Texas Farm Bureau published an article in its newsletter last week opposing HB 645 and HB 1318, bills filed by Representative Eddie Lucio III aimed at ensuring that rural economies thrive by continuing to be allocated a fair share of their local groundwater supply. The Farm Bureau’s arguments for opposing these bills address issues that are not included in these bills. The bills do not transfer any private property rights or water rights. These bills strengthen current law, while still providing districts with the discretion they need to balance local needs with market demands.  

 

There is a growing trend of groundwater districts changing the rules of the game for rural utilities, threatening their supply of water by restricting the amount of water they can pump based on the amount of surface acreage they own. These bills are a response to that trend. The practice of basing the amount of water a utility can pump on the amount of acreage owned at the well site, which the Farm Bureau is advocating, is not required by law, and most groundwater districts do not currently employ this practice. Historically, groundwater districts have taken into account the needs and rights of rural communities to their local supply of groundwater, and these bills seek to preserve these rights.

 

The Farm Bureau asserts that the property rights of utility customers are being threatened by these bills, but their interest is to maximize profits for large landowners who are working with water marketers to pump water out of the rural areas to sell to the highest bidders — the big cities. This practice will force local utilities to compete for the purchase of water to serve their communities, driving up the cost for their customers. House Bills 645 and 1318 will preserve access to a sufficient supply of affordable water before it is sold to the highest bidder and piped out of their area. Ninety-five percent of rural utilities serve 4,000 connections or less, and these communities already pay higher water rates than the big cities, because they do not benefit from the same economies of scale.

 

Rural utility customers benefit from having access to an affordable supply of water, which adds value to their property and makes the rural economy possible. Rural water utilities are not large landowners, but are required by law to serve communities of landowners who are relying on the local utility to pump, treat, test and deliver their groundwater for their household needs. Representative Lucio’s bills allow groundwater districts to balance the rights and needs of local communities with the rights of landowners to sell their groundwater.

 

Some groundwater districts are not only requiring rural systems to purchase land in order to pump sufficient supplies to serve their communities, but are requiring that the land be adjacent to the well site where they are pumping. In these districts, utilities are held hostage to whatever price the adjacent landowner seeks to charge, driving up costs to customers even further.

 

In northeast Texas, rural utility customers are being approached by for-profit business enterprises represented by big Austin law firms seeking to purchase water from every customer. With a for-profit business purchasing all the groundwater in a community, where will the local utility obtain the supply to serve that community? Will they be competing with Dallas to purchase that supply, perhaps paying double or triple the amount of the original purchase price? How will customers in that area be able to afford water for their household needs that they have “sold”? What will happen to the economies in those areas when they no longer own or have the right to pump their groundwater?

 

Local communities shouldn’t have to compete to purchase their own water resources with the big cities who are looking to these areas for their future supply. HB 645 and HB 1318 do not transfer any private property rights or water rights, but seek to help ensure that rural communities receive credit for the ownership of their groundwater resource that they are relying on their local utility to provide. 

Tags:  groundwater  HB 1318  House Bill 1318  rural water  Texas legislature  Texas water 

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10 Things You Might Not Know about Rural Water

Posted By Allison Kaminsky, Tuesday, December 20, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, December 20, 2016
  1. Ninety-four percent of water utilities nationwide are rural or small municipal systems serving populations of less than 10,000.
  2. Rural water systems are held to the same quality standards as big city systems. They are regularly inspected and are required to resolve any violations in a timely fashion.
  3. Rural water systems are operated and governed by people whose families drink the water every day and by people who are locally elected by their community.
  4. Rural water operators are all professionally licensed and take the same training and licensing exams as operators at larger systems. All water operators are required to take continuing education to make sure they stay up-to-date on rules, regulations and requirements.
  5. Water operators are public servants who take great pride in their work, which is to safeguard the public health of their communities. In rural areas, the operators know their community members, applying that personal knowledge of their neighbors to their daily work.
  6. Every day, someone is watching for changes in complex water delivery systems, making second-to-second decisions about adding essential purifying chemicals, killing pathogens and keeping your family’s water safe.
  7. A large number of rural systems voluntarily participate in source water protection programs, which includes searching for potential sources of contamination and educating customers on practical steps they can take to protect their drinking water supply.
  8. Rural water systems strive to provide high-quality drinking water while also being sensitive to disadvantaged communities and the affordability of water rates.
  9. Most systems have a water loss program where they check for and fix leaks on a regular basis to minimize waste and costs, eliminate potential sources of contamination and mitigate drought conditions. Operators also check meters to make sure customers aren’t losing water on their end.
  10. Rural systems are part of a larger network. All 50 states are served by a rural water association.  These associations provided over 75,000 onsite technical assistance visits and 150,000 hours of training to more than 37,000 utilities in the last year. Rural water association training and technical assistance covers every aspect of operating, managing and financing water and wastewater utilities.

The Texas Rural Water Association works hard every day to protect rural Texas’ drinking water. We have resources and expert staff that help rural and small systems with a wide-range of issues, including compliance and legal challenges. We are here to help ensure rural Texans have access to efficient service and clean, quality drinking water. We represent over 750 small and rural utilities that serve communities that enjoy #qualityontap and #drinklocalwater.

 

 

 

Tags:  contamination  drink local water  education  quality on tap  rural water  source water protection  Texas water  water loss programs  water operators  water quality 

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