Washington Helps Small Systems to Assess Financial and Managerial “Health”

In late October, the drinking water program within the Washington State Department of Health sent an invitation to each of their “Group A” community water systems – those with 100-1,000 connections – to answer 20 or so simple questions about their system.  Using an online tool created by Boise State EFC, participating small systems get immediate feedback about their particular strengths and weaknesses (especially in the areas of financial and managerial capacity) and are also provided with tips and tools on how to improve.

In launching the program, Washington recommended that water system decisionmakers at all levels – from operators to governing bodies – work together to answer the questions.  The questions are simple and direct and use a check box approach for most answers.  Questions range from topics such as “how many people have served in the lead operator position in the past 10 years” and “do you prepare a budget each year” to “do you have a complete water system plan or small water system management program that is actively used to operate and manage your water system” and “how many times has the water system’s rate been increased in the past 10 years.”

Washington plans to ask these questions several more times over the next year or so to gain a broad snapshot of small water system health in their state; to let small systems evaluate their own strengths and weaknesses; and to encourage collaboration among operators, managers, and owners to work “…on issues that affect the viability of the water systems they run.”  As an added incentive, Washington is including a prize drawing from among participating systems to win a free sanitary survey, a free workshop, or free registration at an upcoming conference.

For more information about this project and to review a worksheet with the assessment questions, a link to the online assessment, and other helpful information, please visit:  http://www.doh.wa.gov/ehp/dw/Programs/capacity2.htm

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Workforce Workgroup Completes Efforts

The final meeting of the Workforce/Operator Certification workgroup (part of the larger Reenergizing Capacity Development initiative) took place in late October.  Although the formal workgroup has completed its efforts, work continues on an array of products that should be released in early 2012.  Please read below for more information on continuing initiatives and planned product releases:

Quick Summary of 2011 Work:

Topic #1 – Share regional overviews of OpCert training/ education plans/ programs

The group decided to support ABC’s Best Practices for OpCert programs by reviewing documents and sharing information.  The Best Practices project will include a “guide” on what a strong program needs to address coupled with a database that shows what states are currently doing.  Information from both ABC member states and non-member states is included.

Production:  January 2012:  Roll-out of Draft Best Practices Document at the 2012 ABC Annual Conference

Topic #2 – Share internship programs and mentoring programs

Develop fact sheets highlighting different internship and mentoring program models for water and wastewater operators.  Target audiences are states, utilities, utility organizations, operator organizations, educational institutions, and technical assistance providers.  Most programs can be grouped into three categories:  Department of Labor Programs; workforce investment boards/ agencies; and colleges and community college/high school programs.

Production:  Begin to release fact sheets in early 2012.  Expect about 15- 20 fact sheets

Topic #3 – Address recruitment/retention issues

Promote the operator profession through decision-maker education.  Merging this initiative with ASDWA’s effort to design “decision-maker” training to help small systems understand roles and responsibilities for themselves and their operators and provide tools (checklists and templates) for hiring an operator or contracting with a third party for system operations

Production:  Further development in 2012

Save the Date:  February 15, 2011 (1-2:30 pm) – Webinar on internship and mentoring programs that reflects further progress on topic 2 above.

Kentucky Launches Capacity Development Assistance Program

Julie Smoak, Kentucky’s Capacity Development Coordinator, is delighted to report the launch of a new effort in her state – their Capacity Development Assistance Program (CDAP).  Any Kentucky public water system serving 10,000 or fewer persons is eligible to apply for assistance to improve their managerial and financial capacity.  CDAP provides funding (via reimbursement) for certain non-capital projects that these small systems might not otherwise be able to pursue.  Some examples of eligible projects include:

●  Asset Management Plans      ●  O&M Manuals

●  Tank Inspections                       ●  Water Loss Audits/Lead Detection

●  Regionalization Study             ●GIS-based Water Infrastructure Mapping

●  Rate Study

Kentucky does note that the funding is limited and that projects will be ranked according to MHI, population served, and other factors.  A copy of the application form is attached for your review.   Project Application Questionnaire 9 9 2011

Congrats to Julie and her team for finding a way to further support her state’s small systems needs!

Taking Managerial Capacity Efforts to the Next Level: Results from the Managerial Capacity Workgroup

EPA, ASDWA, and several states have been working hard over the past year to find ways to capture the “heart” of managerial capacity in a way that can be described for individuals and organizations within the water community who are not well versed in the underlying concepts and design of capacity development.  EPA is hosting a webinar on Wednesday, December 7 (1:00-3:00pm eastern time) to showcase the results of our collective hard work and invites you to attend. 

Taking Managerial Capacity Efforts to the Next Level: Results from the Managerial Capacity Workgroup will share the Managerial Capacity Workgroup’s recommendations in evaluating different aspects of water system managerial capacity. Topics include measuring managerial capacity, asset management, and targeting board member and owner training.  Register for the no-cost webinar at: https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/325163214

ABC Issues Web Discussion Invitation

ABC invites you to participate in a December 8 webinar discussion that will focus on the Association’s strategic initiatives, exam updates, and a quick preview of their upcoming Annual Conference in Tampa, Florida.

The event is set for 12:20-1:30pm (CENTRAL) on Thursday, December 8.  There is no cost to participate but you must register in advance.  Please go to  https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/321435158 and complete the requested information.  You will then receive a confirmation email that includes “day of the event” access information.