National Association of Realtors Publishes Water Toolkit

The National Association of Realtors has recently published Water Infrastructure:  A Toolkit for Realtors.  ASDWA encourages you to review and download this document as a useful resource to share with your communities.  The document provides easy to understand information across an array of pertinent water issues including sustainability, water security, water financing, regulations, and source protection initiatives.  As the web release notes…

“Real estate professionals often find themselves in the thick of water battles, and must explain local water requirements to property buyers and answer their questions about water supply and quality.  This toolkit is intended to offer a grounding in the basic issues of water infrastructure and to point to further resources for those wanting to delve deeper into particular aspects.  The information can help REALTORS® be strong advocates for the water rights of their customers and be community leaders proactive in finding solutions to infrastructure challenges.  REALTORS® can become an important source of information not just for their customers, but for the public at large.”

Please go to http://www.realtor.org/government_affairs/smart_growth/water_toolkit for more information and to download a copy of the toolkit.

EPA Updates National Small Systems Characteristics Report

EPA has updated a report entitled National Characteristics of Drinking Water Systems Serving 10,000 or Fewer People.  EPA first published this report in 1999, after the 1996 Amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act, to serve as a source of information for small drinking water systems and stakeholders that work with small systems.  The focus of the report is to share characteristics of small public drinking water systems to better understand their challenges and better target technical assistance to improve their technical, managerial and financial capacity.  This report updates the data on small systems based on the new information drawn from the 2006 Community Water System Survey, the 2007 Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs Survey and Assessment, the Safe Drinking Water Information Systems (SDWIS), the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund National Information Management System and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  The report is available on EPA’s website at:  http://water.epa.gov/type/drink/pws/smallsystems/state_guidance.cfm

Water Systems Council Offers Free Webinars

On September 6, join the Water Systems Council for a one hour webinar on Emergencies & Disasters and Wells:  Responses and Resources (Managing a Flooded Well, Power Outages and Other Emergencies).

On September 12, the Council is offering a second webinar titled Water & Health:  The CDC Private Drinking Water Well Initiative.

These are free events but you must register in advance.  Click here to view and register for upcoming webinars.  After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the training on September 6 and/or September 12.  Both one hour events occur between 2 and 3PM eastern.  If you have questions, need additional information or want to learn more about upcoming Water Systems Council events, please contact Rita Wayco of the Water Systems Council at rwayco@watersystemscouncil.org

 

 

EPA Seeks Input on the Development of Drinking Water Perchlorate Regulation

EPA in inviting participation in a perchlorate review panel from representatives of the small systems community (serving populations of 10,000 or less).  If you know of individuals or organizations who would be good candidates for this effort, please share this information with them.  Nominations are being taken through August 26, 2011.  Please read below for more detailed information.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is inviting small businesses, governments, and not-for-profit organizations to participate as small entity representatives (SERs) for a small business advocacy review (SBAR) Panel. This panel will focus on the agency’s development of a rule that proposes to regulate the amount of perchlorate, a potentially harmful chemical, in drinking water. Federal law requires agencies to establish an SBAR Panel for rules that may have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities.
Perchlorate is both a naturally occurring and man-made chemical that is used to produce rocket fuel, fireworks, flares and explosives. Perchlorate can also be present in bleach and in some fertilizers.

EPA has determined that perchlorate meets the Safe Drinking Water Act’s three criteria for regulating a contaminant. First, perchlorate may have adverse health effects. Scientific research indicates that perchlorate can disrupt the thyroid’s ability to produce hormones needed for normal growth and development.Second,there is a substantial likelihood that perchlorate occurs frequently at levels of health concern in public water systems–monitoring data show more than four percent of public water systems have detected perchlorate. Finally, there is a meaningful opportunity for health risk reduction for the between 5.2 million and 16.6 million people who may be served drinking water containing perchlorate.

The panel will include federal representatives from the Small Business Administration, the Office of Management and Budget, and EPA. The panel members ask a selected group of SERs to provide advice and recommendations on behalf of their company, community, or organization to inform the panel members about the potential impacts of the proposed rule on small entities.

EPA seeks self-nominations directly from the small organizations that may be subject to the rule requirements. Other representatives, such as trade associations that exclusively or at least primarily represent potentially regulated small entities, may also serve as SERs.

Self-nominations may be submitted through the link below and must be received by August, 26 2011.

Nominate yourself as a SER: http://www.epa.gov/sbrefa/perchlorate.html

More information about perchlorate: http://water.epa.gov/drink/contaminants/unregulated/perchlorate.cfm

Recruit Veterans Initiative

Veterans represent a major recruiting opportunity for water and wastewater utilities.  Many veterans possess technical skills and training that are directly transferable to careers in the water sector.  Recognizing this, EPA is working with AWWA, WEF, the Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Labor (VETS office) to help recruit and train veterans for careers in water and wastewater.

As part of this effort, a new informational brochure has been posted on the Work for Water website:  http://www.workforwater.org/WorkArea/linkit.aspx?LinkIdentifier=id&ItemID=2147483686 (a joint AWWA and WEF web effort).

It encourages utilities to recruit veterans and gives them information on:

– Who to contact to reach out to veterans (with an explanation of the alphabet soup of government agency contacts)

– Tips for promoting the industry to Veterans Affairs and Department of Labor

– How to help veterans receive financial GI Bill benefits for training (including on-the-job training)

– Special programs and incentives for training and hiring disabled veterans

– Contact information for government agencies that work with veterans

To learn about recruiting and training veterans for the water sector, or to get involved in this effort, please contact EPA’s Allison Watanabe at watanabe.allison@epa.gov, or start a conversation with Allison on the ASDWA CapCert Connections Forum.

RCAC Loan Fund Provides Range of Loan Products for Western Rural Water Systems

As part of the national Rural Community Assistance Partnership, Rural Community Assistance Corporation (RCAC) offers an innovative loan program through its Loan Fund to serve the water and wastewater financing needs of rural communities in 13 western states:  Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawai’i, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.  RCAC strives to work with communities and projects that are underserved by conventional financial institutions.

Eligible projects include water, wastewater, solid waste and storm water facilities that primarily serve low-income rural communities.  Eligible applicants are nonprofit organizations, public agencies and tribal governments.

RCAC offers short (1-3 years), intermediate (up to 20 years), and long-term loans.  Short term loan limits range from $50,000 for pre-development to $2 million for construction.  Intermediate term loans are available for up to $100,000 and can be used for smaller capital needs.  Long-term loans are available to projects that meet the requirements of the USDA Rural Utilities Service Water and Waste Disposal Guaranteed Loan Program.  Long-term loans are generally used when system improvements are needed if the system does not have priority to qualify for more favorable funding sources.  RCAC encourages incorporation of water and energy savings features in new or rehabilitation projects.  Loan applications meeting “green” criteria are given funding priority.

There is a 1 percent loan fee for all loans and rates vary, but are generally in the 5 percent range for short term and intermediate loans.  For long-term loans, there is an additional 1 percent guarantee fee on the guaranteed portion of the loan (generally 90 percent).  Long-term loan interest rates are generally 2-3 percent more than short term rates.

In 1996, RCAC was certified as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) and now operates a successful loan fund with more than $65 million in lending capital. In addition to water and wastewater systems, the Loan Fund finances affordable housing and community facilities and is piloting small business lending programs in select communities.  For more information, contact RCAC at 916-447-2854 or visit the website at http://www.rcac.org to get in touch with your local RCAC loan officer.

At the national level, the Rural Utilities Service awarded a total of $248,500 for FY 2010 Revolving Loan Fund grants to the RCAP network.  The RCAP network has received RUS grants in FYs 2004, 2006, 2009 and 2010.  Since inception, the program has closed 58 loans totaling $3,669,007.  These funds have made loans to water and wastewater borrowers in 19 states across the nation.

EPA Launches Revamped Sustainable Water Infrastructure Web Pages

This morning, EPA issued the following notice about new and revised web info on sustainability for water and wastewater.  Please read below for more information:

“Our communities depend on aging drinking water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure for the health of its people and the vitality of the local economy.  With the release of the Wastewater and Drinking Water Infrastructure Sustainability Policy last fall, EPA took the next step in our efforts to work with the water sector as it moves towards more sustainable practices.  This week, the Agency has launched an enhanced set of web pages to provide information and resources for meeting the water infrastructure challenges faced in communities across the country.

Local elected officials and decision makers play a vital role in safeguarding the shared community assets that make up our nation’s water infrastructure.  To support local officials as they meet these challenges, the updated web pages also have a new section specifically for local officials.  The pages provide information, resources, and materials designed to meet the needs of local officials committed to leaving a legacy of sustainable water infrastructure.  It provides information that every local official should know about their community’s water infrastructure and offers concrete, achievable steps that local officials can take to put their community on a more sustainable path or enhance existing efforts to address their water infrastructure needs.

To review EPA’s revamped sustainable infrastructure web pages, please visit:  http://water.epa.gov/infrastructure/sustain/index.cfm.  To view the local officials’ section directly, please go to:  http://water.epa.gov/infrastructure/sustain/localofficals.cfm.

EPA and USDA Create a Partnership to Improve Drinking Water Systems and Develop Workforce in Rural Communities

WASHINGTON –The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced a national partnership to protect Americans’ health by improving rural drinking water and wastewater systems. Nationwide, small water and sewage treatment facilities with limited funding and resources face challenges due to rising costs and aging equipment and pipes. Today’s agreement will send federal resources to support communities that need assistance and promote job training to help put people to work while addressing the growing workforce shortage in the water industry.

“EPA and USDA have joined forces to leverage our expertise and resources to improve drinking water and wastewater systems in small towns across the country,” said Nancy Stoner, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Water. “A critical part of this agreement is to ensure that we have a well trained, professional workforce available to replace workers when they leave or retire.”

“The agreement we are announcing today represents an exciting partnership between USDA and EPA that will greatly enhance our investments in water systems and also in developing a skilled workforce to oversee them,” said Jonathan Adelstein, administrator for USDA’s Rural Utilities Service. “By working together, our agencies will strengthen their capacity to provide rural residents with safe, clean, well-managed water and wastewater systems for years to come.”

Under the agreement, EPA and USDA will work together to promote jobs by targeting specific audiences, providing training for new water careers and coordinating outreach efforts that will bring greater public visibility to the workforce needs of the industry, and develop a new generation of trained water professionals. EPA and USDA will also facilitate the exchange of successful recruitment and training strategies among stakeholders including states and water industries.

The agencies will also help rural utilities improve current operations and encourage development of long-term water quality improvement plans. The plans will include developing sustainable management practices to cut costs and improve performance.

Since taking office, President Obama’s administration has taken significant steps to improve the lives of rural Americans. For instance, the administration has set goals to modernize infrastructure by providing broadband access to 10 million Americans, expanding educational opportunities for students in rural areas and providing affordable health care. In the long term, these unparalleled rural investments will help ensure that America’s rural communities are thriving economically.

In June, President Obama signed an executive order establishing the first White House Rural Council, chaired by U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack. The White House Rural Council will work throughout government to create policies that will help realize the administration’s goals for rural communities. Today’s agreement is part of that initiative.

More about the EPA-USDA agreement can be found at:   http://water.epa.gov/type/drink/pws/smallsystems/partners.cfm#moa; more about EPA’s programs and tools for small water systems are located at:  http://water.epa.gov/type/drink/pws/smallsystems/index.cfm; and more about USDA’s Water and Environmental Programs for rural communities is located at:  http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/UWEP_HomePage.html

 

 

RUS Amends Emergency Plan Requirements for Borrowers

The August 4 edition of the Federal Register (page 47055) contains a final rule notice for the USDA Rural Utilities Service requirements pertaining to inclusion of Emergency Restoration Plans for all loan recipients.  The effective date for the rule change is September 6, 2011.

The notice summary states:  “The Rural Utilities Service (RUS) is amending the requirements established for Emergency Restoration Plans (ERPs), currently mandated for all borrowers, to include a plan to comply with the eligibility requirements to qualify for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Public Assistance Grant Program in the event of a declared disaster. This amendment will ensure that RUS borrowers have a plan to maintain their eligibility to receive financial assistance from FEMA in the event they incur eligible costs for disaster related system repair and restoration.”

Should you have questions, please contact Donald Junta of USDA-RUS at donald.junta@wdc.usda.gov.  You may also read the entire notice at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-08-04/pdf/2011-19661.pdf

RCAP PRODUCES NEW GUIDE TO HELP USDA RURAL UTILITIES SERVICES BORROWER COMMUNITIES

The Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) has released a new guidebook to assist recipients of loans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Utilities Services (RUS) in fulfilling the financial reporting and management requirements of their loans.

RCAP’s USDA Rural Utilities Service Borrower’s Guide: A How-to for Water and Wastewater Loans from USDA Rural Development is aimed at small, rural communities that have received funds from the RUS Direct Loan and Grant for Water and Waste program.

The guide offers help in two ways:

  • Borrowers are required to submit regular management reports to RUS.  The guide provides step-by-step instructions for filling out all of the forms and explains the purpose of each set of forms that make up a report to the lender.  Blank and example forms are available in electronic form on a CD that accompanies the guide and can be downloaded from the RCAP website.
  • The guide includes two sections with ways to manage a financially healthy utility. One section summarizes the conditions of RUS loans and reinforces the management practices that borrowers must adhere to. The other section provides ways to look at and think about the financial health and sustainability of a utility, both in the short- and long-term.

The guide is designed for the person responsible for carrying out the administrative task of compiling the regular financial reports to RUS and the management and governance of the utility in their overall responsibilities for the financial health and sustainability of the water system.

The USDA Rural Utilities Service Borrower’s Guide and accompanying forms are available at:

www.rcap.org/pubs/usdaborrguide.

The guidebooks are being funded as part of a special 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. 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.