More About Restructuring and Sustainability

As you read through the information below, it may sound familiar to some of you…and that’s because it is!

 This is a reprint of an article that Steve Wilson wrote for SmallWaterSupply.org more than a year ago.  So why is ASDWA publishing it again in CapCert Connections?  Two reasons:  1) It’s a really good article that has lots of useful and timely (or should that be timeless?) information about how we consider the process of “restructuring” that is now called water system partnership, and 2) to remind you that CapCert Connections now has an RSS feed for SmallWaterSupply.org.  This means that you can go to this useful site at any time to see what they have posted as the latest and greatest small system “good stuff.”  So, keep reading!

“Restructuring, consolidation, and sustainability aren’t anything new.  Recently though, there has been more talk about these issues as the industry begins to focus more efforts on small systems and increasing overall compliance rates for public water supplies.
Sustainability
Sustainability is the hot buzz word these days, but what does it mean?  It’s much more than being able to run your water supply in the black.  It means developing a business plan for the long term, planning now for the large infrastructure upgrade you will need in 25 years, being prepared for changes in the rules or when an emergency arises, and making plans for staffing and knowledge retention, should you leave or retire.  It means a lot of work, but for those who practice it, they will tell you it’s rewarding work and knowing you are taking care of your future is a great feeling.
Sounds Like A Lot Of Gloom And Doom
When you are already frustrated at the expectations put on you to maintain a water supply, talk of sustainability seems like it must be for someone else.  Not so. No matter how big or small your system is, there are things you can do to improve sustainability.  And if you only implement one change, that’s still progress that you can see and measure.  If you are part of a homeowners association, it could be finding that neighbor who cares enough to learn what you do, so there is someone to back you up when needed.  For a small community supply, maybe it’s developing relationships with customers and your town board, and educating them on what’s needed to ensure the system is viable in 20 years.  In all of these cases, being informed yourself helps a lot, and enlisting the help of local TA providers to support your efforts is key.
Ask For Support
There are a number of TA providers who can work with you to understand what it will take to start down this road.  If you are a member of an operators association, start there.  If not, talk to your state regulatory people about other TA providers that can assist you.  Rural water associations, RCAP affiliates, AWWA affiliates, EFC’s, TAC’s, NESC, and others, are all interested in supporting your efforts to maintain and develop your water supplies.  You can also contact us, and we will find someone local to help you.
There Are Some Good Materials Available
I searched our documents database, using the word “consolidation” in the keyword search and here are the most relevant ones that you should take a look at:
1. KRWA article that is a must read, with state examples 4 pages
2. Great Report from SE-TAC on Pros, Cons, Options, Considerations 24 pages
7. The Technical Paper that #3 is based on 35 pages
Lastly, there is an interesting marketing report from 2003 that really does a great job of summarizing the issues raised about small supplies infrastructure needs, what the cost will be nationally over the next 20 years, and what the USEPA was discussing about sustainability of water supplies in 2003.  One thing it points out is that 86% of small supplies are within 5 miles of another supply and that by itself suggests that small systems have an opportunity to develop agreements to share resources.  At a minimum, this will help small supplies achieve the economies of scale that will support their being sustainable.”
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