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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