RCAP Produces Two New Guides to Help Lay Audiences Understand Technical Aspects of Water Systems

The Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) has produced two new guidebooks that explain the technical aspects of drinking water and wastewater systems to non-technical audiences using everyday language.

RCAP’s A Drop of Knowledge: The Non-operator’s Guide to Drinking Water Systems and A Drop of Knowledge: The Non-operator’s Guide to Wastewater Systems were written for people who have a role or interest in their community’s water systems but not the technical knowledge or skills of a system operator.  The guides are ideal for board members of utilities in small communities, elected leaders with oversight of a water system, or any decision-maker who is involved in a water system.  Designed to be used separately or together as companion pieces, the guides can be used as an orientation to new leaders or as background for long-time leaders.

The premise of the guides is that informed leaders make better decisions.  Most leaders of small-community water systems do not come to their positions, either as elected officials or as concerned residents, with the technical knowledge of a certified water operator.  In addition, in most small-community water systems, leaders are at least one step removed from the tasks that their system’s operator carries out daily.  Leaders are expected to oversee all of the activities that go on in a system, and these guides provide an overview of the technical aspects so that informed decisions can be made on the maintenance or development of the physical parts of a system.

“A key way that RCAP assists communities is helping leaders of water systems develop their skills at managing their utility,” said Robert Stewart, RCAP Executive Director.  “Making wise, informed decisions with a view of the long-term is integral to sustainability, which is RCAP’s overall goal for communities.”

In addition to explaining the technical, biological or chemical processes that happen in treating drinking water or wastewater, the guides include many diagrams and photographs that show common parts of a water system. The key sections of the guides walk readers through the steps of producing drinking water from source to tap and of treating wastewater from a home through discharge.

Both guides were written on behalf of RCAP by the National Environmental Services Center (NESC) at West Virginia University, a longtime partner of RCAP.  NESC has more than 30 years of experience in providing environmental services and producing technical publications for small communities.  The guidebooks are being funded as part of a $5 million grant of ARRA funds secured by RCAP and furnished by the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Rural Development in 2010.

The main distribution of the guides is through the field staff of RCAP’s regional partners.  However, communities can also obtain the guides as PDFs on the RCAP website at www.rcap.org/commpubs.  Communities can view the guides, download and save a copy on their own computers, or print the guides themselves from that URL.

These two guides are among the first to be published of 11 print resources that RCAP is developing to aid small, rural communities.  Each guide is being written and reviewed by field staff who are experts in the subject of the guide they are producing.  All guides will be broad enough to apply to most communities across the country, regardless of their location and their state’s rules and regulations.  The RCAP national office in Washington, D.C., is responsible for the final production of these resources, which will complement and support RCAP’s field work in providing in-person, customized assistance through its 150 Technical Assistance Providers.  A list of the other nine guides that will be produced and a description of each is also at www.rcap.org/commpubs.

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For more information, please contact Stephen Padre, Director of Communications, at 202/470-2808 or spadre@rcap.org.

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