GAO Releases Water Workforce Report

Earlier today, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a new report titled Water and Wastewater Workforce: Recruiting Approached Helped Industry Hire Operators, but Additional EPA Guidance Could Help Identify Future Needs (GAO-18-102).  The study, reviewing workforce needs within the drinking water and wastewater industry, was requested by the Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies.

As the Report’s Highlights document states, “This report describes (1) what is known about workforce needs at water utilities compared with workforce needs nationwide and effects of potential unmet workforce needs on the utilities’ compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act and Clean Water Act; (2) approaches used by selected utilities to manage their workforce needs and challenges they have faced in managing those needs; and (3) ways in which federal programs can assist water utilities with workforce needs.”

In summary, “GAO recommends that EPA add strategic workforce planning questions, such as the positions and skills needed in the future, to its inspection guidance documents. EPA generally agreed with GAO’s recommendation as it related to drinking water, but neither agreed nor disagreed regarding wastewater. GAO believes the entire recommendation should be implemented.”

A complete copy of the Report may be downloaded here.


ABC Brings Certification Professionals Together

Last week, despite unexpected cold and ice, more than 100 certification professionals gathered in San Antonio to participate in the ABC National Conference.  Titled ABC Innovation in Certification 2018, the Conference provided attendees from state drinking water and wastewater programs, tribal certification organizations, and Canadian and other international interested parties an opportunity to interact with their peers and discuss a range of issues and initiatives.

Presentations and discussions ranged across topics such as the legal aspects of certification, setting the certification standard, tech tools for the certification process, and workforce challenges and solutions.  Participants also heard from EPA’s Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water about ongoing projects and from AWWA about upcoming projects and priorities for 2018.

Some of the more interesting discussions looked at drivers for good certification programs – coordinate with trainers, review deficiencies, communicate with stakeholders, and play a leadership role.  Discussions also focused on root causes for operator shortages and noted that, in many locations, the shortage relates more to operator retention rather than a lack of available operators.  Of course, an aging workforce also plays a large role in the shortage scenario.  Another discussion centered around drivers for certification standards.  John Solvie, ABC’s C2EP Chair, noted that standards are not developed in a vacuum but rather that significant influencers are regulators, legislators, and industry organizations.  Joe McClary of IACET spoke to participants about the need to make data driven solutions.  He also suggested that certification programs should create a quality of service benchmark; ask for feedback from the operator community; and then act on that feedback to make improvements.

ABC plans to post presentations from the Conference within the next few weeks at  Next year’s ABC Conference is planned for January 8-11 in Savannah, GA.

NRWA’s New Workforce Apprenticeship Program

Last November, ASDWA attended the formal signing of an agreement between NRWA and the US Department of Labor to launch and support a workforce apprenticeship program.  That agreement reflects nearly two years of effort culminating in the National Guidelines for Apprenticeship Standards for Water and Wastewater System Operations Specialists.

The program supports a two-year registered apprenticeship.  Participants, or apprentices, are placed at a water utility where they receive 4,000 hours of on the job training and an additional 288 hours of training and instruction by state rural water association staff.  Thus far, the Alliance of Indiana Rural Water has developed a program, submitted and received approval from the Department of Labor, and is the first state to have a Registered Apprenticeship Program using the jointly developed national standards.

For more information on this effort, please contact your state’s rural water association.  To read more about the program, please visit the NRWA website and click on the magazine link under the “News and Media” tab.

EPA Leans in to Water System Partnerships

EPA has launched a new interactive website to increase awareness about the benefits of drinking water partnerships.  EPA describes partnerships as “…tools to help address the challenges water systems face, with options ranging from informal arrangements, such as sharing equipment, to transferring ownership of a system through consolidation.

Drinking water system partnerships provide opportunities to increase capacity by working together to solve compliance challenges, share costs of operations and maintenance activities, and leverage other resources. EPA’s new website highlights ways partnerships can address these challenges, leading to enhanced public health by working together and sharing information.

The Partnerships website also outlines benefits for state programs such as improved compliance, resource savings, improved customer relations and the potential for a reduction in the number of systems to be regulated.  There’s also a clickable map that briefly describes, by state, the available types of partnership resources.

EPA’s Water System Partnership website provides states, communities, utilities and others with a user-friendly interface to explore the different types of partnerships, success stories across the nation, and national and state resources.  We encourage you to check it out!

EFCN Hosts January Webinars

Time for New Year’s resolutions!  Why not brush up on your water pricing and asset mapping skills?  Our colleagues at the Environmental Finance Center Network (EFCN) are offering two new webinars for the month of January…


Pricing Water for Full Cost Recovery – How Different Rate Structures Impact Different Customers

DATE:              Thursday, January 18

TIME:               2:00-3:00PM (eastern)

REGISTER:      Register

Water rates should ideally bring in enough revenue to cover the cost of providing water service today and into the future. This webinar will demonstrate how water systems can calculate price levels under different rate structures to achieve full cost recovery and then look at how those various rate structures impact a range of customers with different levels of monthly water consumption

Intermediate Asset Management – Benefits of Mapping Your Assets

DATE:              Tuesday, January 30

TIME:               1:00-2:00PM (eastern)

REGISTER:      Register

Mapping your system’s assets and collecting asset inventory data can provide tremendous benefit to your system, including operations and maintenance efficiency, emergency response/repair, short and long-term capital planning, and knowledge management. Gathering this information and turning it into actionable data and knowledge through proper visualization of the data can aid decision-making. This hour-long webinar will discuss techniques and tools you can use to begin your asset inventory and system map, as well how these activities can begin your overall asset management program.