CUPSS Webinar Rescheduled

From the CUPSS TEAM to CUPSS Community Members…

Due to a temporary lapse in Federal appropriations, we were unable to host the third and final CUPSS Train the Trainers webinar scheduled for October 2nd.

We have rescheduled this session to October 30th 2013 from 1:00-3:00 PM (eastern).  The link to register for this webinar is https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/5953111448838070786. If you were registered for the previous Session 3, please re-register using this updated link!

This webinar will focus on generating a CUPSS Asset Management Plan. Everyone who attends all three sessions and completes the homework will be certified as a CUPSS Trainer and listed on the CUPSS Trainers Directory.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact the CUPSS team at cupss@epa.gov.

ASDWA Hosts Webinar on Capacity Development and Source Water Protection Collaboration

ASDWA’s Small Systems and Source Water Committees jointly hosted a webinar on October 9 to explore opportunities for state drinking water capacity development and source water protection program staff to work more closely together to help their small water systems sustain and enhance compliance.  Approximately 80 people from 42 states attended the “Capacity Development and Source Water Protection Collaboration” webinar.  Loralei Walker and Kitty Weisman of Washington and Lyn Poorman and John Grace from Maryland provided on-the-ground examples of how their states’ source water protection and capacity development staff are collaborating to help solve small system problems.

To view the web event, please visit:  www.asdwa.org/swcapdevwebinar2013.

One of the questions asked of the presenters was, “When working toward a longer term source water solution for a small system, what types of capacity development strategies or tools do you (or can you) use to help the water system with compliance issues in the interim?”  Our Washington presenters offered the following reply that we believe captures the essence of how capacity development and source water protection programs can align to support small system needs:

Washington State:  When working with small systems on long-term source water protection solutions and underlying Technical, Managerial, and Financial (TMF) capacity issues, we often start by formalizing a team with the expertise to help the system’s governing body develop and implement a strategy to manage their challenges. This team can include:

  • Technical assistance providers such as Rural Water and RCAC, often funded through DWSRF set-aside contracts.
  • A staff person from the Small Communities Initiative, which is a collaborative effort between state Departments of Commerce, Health, and Ecology.  This person provides the primary leadership and coordination to develop and navigate the plan for the system http://www.commerce.wa.gov/Services/localgovernment/Pages/Small-Communities-Initiative.aspx).
  • State staff such as planners, engineers, contract managers, and the capacity  development coordinator.
  • Local partners such as water system staff that can act as mentors and have a vested interest in helping the nearby community find solutions.
  • Water system customers that might have the interest and ability to add to the governing body’s capacity.

We also offer the following tools and services as the water system’s strategy is being implemented:

  • Board training and assistance on board roles, responsibilities, by-laws, policies, communication, and other organizational support.
  • Rate studies, rate structures, and rate-setting to encourage conservation and ensure high users pay their share.
  • Asset management, including system component assessment and condition rating, prioritizing improvements.
  • Water audits to identify and resolve costly leaks.
  • Research and coordination on grant and loan opportunities that the system can qualify for.

In addition, Washington’s compliance policy allows flexibility if a system is showing that they are making progress.  We can issue bilateral compliance agreements that give the system time to implement solutions without ongoing penalties.

As mentioned in the webinar, Washington State uses the DWSRF set-asides (the 15% Local Assistance & Other State Programs set-aside) to fund:

  • Two technical assistance contracts to RCAC (1 FTE for capacity technical assistance) and Evergreen Rural Water (1 FTE for source water protection technical assistance). We use these contracts to help water systems address compliance issues while also helping them build capacity for the long term.
  • Two grant programs including:  the Source Water Protection Grant Program helps systems address compliance problems related to source water protection; and the Restructuring and Consolidation Grant Program helps water systems address a variety of compliance problems by exploring the feasibility of restructuring or consolidating with a compliant water system that demonstrates capacity.

Water Efficiency at Drinking Water Systems without Volumetric Charges

[Editor’s Note:  This is a reprint of an October 4 article from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill Environmental Finance Center.  The author, Glenn Barnes, is the co-director of the Smart Management for Small Water Systems project.]

All drinking water systems should be concerned about water loss—water that is treated but does not reach an end user because it leaks out through the system’s network of pipes.  Water loss wastes both a precious resource (the drinking water) and potentially a lot of money as well (energy use, chemicals, wear and tear on equipment, etc.).

For water systems that charge customers for water based on the volume of that customer’s use, their water loss concern decreases once the water reaches the meter.  It is up to the end-use customer to use that water efficiently.  Certainly, water systems have some interest in how that water is used, especially in drier areas of the country where raw water supplies are limited, but at least the water system will get paid for every gallon consumed, efficiently or otherwise.

But for water systems that do not charge customers for water based on the volume of usage, the story is very different.  A water system operated by an apartment complex or mobile home park or university that includes water use in the rent, for example, should be concerned about how every drop of water is used.  Old, inefficient fixtures and leaks can cost the water system significant revenue.

Water systems with volumetric charges can set their rates in such a way that encourages water conservation—by using an increasing block rate structure, for example, where the per gallon rate customers pay increases as their monthly usage increases.  But systems without volumetric charges send exactly the opposite message—a rational consumer who has paid a fixed amount for unlimited water use should use as much as possible every month to maximize his or her benefit.

A few months ago, a water system operated by a mobile home park in Ohio shared this story with us at a workshop.  At this mobile home park, unlimited water use is included in a fixed charge paid with the rent—$ 25 per month.  Most of the residents of this mobile home park use water inside the home for cooking, cleaning, laundry, showers, and toilets.  But one resident, a retired gentleman, gets up every morning, waters the grass and flowers around his trailer, and washes the trailer from top to bottom.  He pays the same amount for water as everyone else.  This raises both financial and equity concerns—the other mobile home park residents (or the owner) are effectively subsidizing his water use.  This particular water system is now considering a separate fixed charge for outside use in addition to the fixed charge for inside use.

At another workshop, a water system operated by an apartment complex shared their story.  This complex gets funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to subsidize the rent payments.  Under HUD rules, the apartment complex must include water use as part of the rent it charges, so there is no possibility to charge based on the volume of water used.  The biggest issue the apartment complex owners face is leaky faucets, showerheads, and toilets.  Residents have no incentive to inform the apartment management of issues because they do not see higher bills as a result.

In addition to regular inspections of water devices, these apartment owners should also consider installing low-flow fixtures to make water use efficient every day.  The same strategy can be followed by other water systems that have high levels of domestic water use such as hotels and restaurants.  Even some prisons are focusing on water efficiency by installing devices that limit the number of times per hour an inmate may flush the toilet.

The savings on water treatment costs generated by these water efficiency devices can help water systems that do not have volumetric charges control their costs.