WARNs and Small Systems – A Beneficial Team Approach

Once again, our friends at SmallWaterSupply.org have offered to share some of their “discovered” success stories that highlight helpful tools and strategies that are useful for small systems.  Even if your work does not fall under the traditional “security” umbrella, take a look at how these state WARNs (Water and Wastewater Agency Response Networks) are being used to meet small system needs ranging from drought to main breaks.  There are WARN programs in nearly every state.  They are a great resource for any small system.  Read on to learn more…
MoWARN: Helping Rural Utilities in Missouri

In Missouri, MoWARN is closely affiliated with Missouri Rural Water, which helps operate and maintain the network. Their members currently range in size from a utility with 200 connections to one with 4,500 connections, but they welcome members of any size. Big regional events like Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy are frequently cited as examples of WARN helpfulness, but smaller utilities can face other challenges as well. MoWARN chair Randy Norden speaks of helping with drought-related problems, tornadoes, floods, and even a mistake that led to a loss of power at one utility. Missouri Rural Water’s strong commitment to emergency response has meant that they already have a lot of resources in place to help WARN member utilities with requests as they come in.

As with all WARNs, signing up with MoWARN is free, though it does require a membership application and a signed mutual aid agreement. This doesn’t mean you’re signing over your resources to someone else; you still get to decide when to volunteer resources, and you can even recall volunteered resources if you need to. On the other hand, the benefits are many, including quick access to tools, generators, and other help, and the satisfaction of helping other systems get back on their feet. In addition, if you do have to deal with a large-scale disaster, being part of a recognized mutual aid program makes it easier to get reimbursed by SEMA and FEMA. Missouri utilities interested in joining MoWARN should visit the website, or contact Randy Norden if they have questions. As a recent MoWARN email points out, “Membership costs you nothing; benefits are priceless.”

SDWARN: Commended for Their Help

Last summer, a rural county water system in South Dakota experienced a severe main break resulting in a water outage. The South Dakota DENR and SDARWS, the state rural water association, enacted a WARN emergency. Volunteers from SDWARN member Fort Pierre responded, along with two SDARWS circuit riders. Working together, these four volunteers helped to locate and repair the leak and restore service. They also helped haul water from a hydrant twenty miles away to refill the water tower.

In recognition of the hard work put in by these WARN volunteers, SDWARN and the two volunteers received commendations from the DENR Secretary and the governor of South Dakota. In his letter to the Fort Pierre utility, DENR Secretary Steven Pirner wrote, “It was great to see the resources provided through the South Dakota Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network (SDWARN) work as intended. As the SDWARN facilitator [at Ft. Pierre], you and your drinking water team are demonstrating how ‘utilities helping utilities’ in South Dakota truly make a difference.” To learn more about the water leak response from the SDARWS perspective, you can read the pdf found here.

South Dakota utilities wanting to know more about SDWARN can visit the website, where they’ll find a regional directory of members, contact information, and a copy of the mutual aid agreement.

Want to know if there’s a WARN in your state? Check the national WARN regional directory.




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