Mark Your Calendars!

Our colleagues at the Environmental Finance Center Network will be hosting three web events in November that you may have an interest in.  We also encourage you to share these webinar opportunities with your water systems.

GRANT WRITING 101

 DATE:              Thursday, November 8

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

REGISTER:      Register Online

This webinar will introduce the basics of grant writing. You will learn how to craft more competitive grant applications and increase the success rate of your submissions.

We will focus on:

  • How to identify priority projects
  • Potential funding alternatives
  • Planning for a proposal
  • Mechanics of grant writing
  • How to find funding opportunities

We will also discuss how relationship building can support your proposal and how best to convey the needs of your organization to grant reviewers.

 

COLLECTING BREAK DATA:  WHY, HOW, AND WHAT FOR

DATE:              Tuesday, November 13

TIME:               1:30-2:30PM (eastern)

REGISTER:      Register Online

Does your system have water main leaks and breaks? Even if the answer isn’t yes right now, it will be in the future. All utilities suffer from pipe leaks and breaks. How can you best deal with this problem? One way is to collect as much information as possible on the leaks and breaks to help you address the issue in the future.

Collecting break data may be easier than you think, and if you collect the right information, it can be leveraged and analyzed to provide insight into system performance, pipe condition, operations and maintenance issues, water losses, developing and tracking level of service goals, and more. It also provides invaluable information for creating capital improvement plans.

In this webinar, we will discuss what kinds of break data you can and should collect, how to collect it, and demonstrate different ways that you can analyze that data to develop and meet your operational goals.

 

REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT ORGANIZATIONS: SUPPORTING WATER INFRASTRUCTURE AND IMPROVING QUALITY OF LIFE

DATE:     Thursday, November 15

TIME:     2:00-3:00PM (eastern)

REGISTER:  Register Online

Every day, regional development organizations (RDOs) are working to improve the lives of residents in communities across the country. Known locally as councils of governments, regional planning commissions, economic development districts, and other names, RDOs provide various types of support to their member communities in a host of service areas. RDOs can open the door to grant and loan funding, provide administrative support, and supply valuable staff support and access to technology. For rural places in particular, they can play a critical role in towns that may have limited capacity and resources. This webinar will provide an overview of RDOs and share case studies of RDOs in action across the country supporting their region’s water systems.

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State-Focused Webinar on the Latest EPA Training and Technical Assistance Grants for Small Drinking Water systems and Private Well Owners

DATE:              Thursday, November 1, 2018

TIME:               1:00-2:30PM (eastern)

REGISTER:      Click here

EPA has awarded $25.4 million to 3 organizations (National Rural Water Association, Rural Community Assistance Partnership, and the Environmental Finance Center Network) to provide training and technical assistance to small drinking water system personnel to address common issues they face, such as lack of revenue, deteriorating infrastructure, lack of operations and maintenance planning, inadequate training, and poor performance. Assistance and training will also be provided to private well owners to help them better understand well performance, how to protect their drinking water quality, treatment options available, and where to seek assistance. These grants come with a two year performance period.

This event is designed specifically for state drinking water program personnel and EPA Regional staff.  Please join us for the webinar to learn more about each program!

Have questions?  Please contact Susanna Bains at EPA HQ bains.susanna@epa.gov

EFCN Offers “After Hours” Training Opportunities

Do you sometimes wish there was a way to bring Boards, local officials, and system owners to your training table – especially when the subject is money?  Here are two evening webinar opportunities provided by the Environmental Finance Center Network (EFCN) that we encourage you to share with these decision-makers.  The timing is such that the hour-long experience should not conflict with their regular work schedules.

Water System Financial Management

 DATE:              August 28, 2018

TIME:               9:00-10:00PM (eastern)

REGISTER:      Register Online

This webinar will provide an overview of key financial management best practices for small water system owners, board members, and local elected officials. We will discuss the fiscal responsibilities of water system leaders, budgeting best practices, and ways to measure and improve the overall financial health of the water system. You will also learn about how water systems can best use reserve accounts to improve their financial management.

Water System Rate Setting

DATE:              September 6, 2018

TIME:               9:00-10:00PM (eastern)

REGISTER:      Register Online

This webinar will provide an overview of rate setting best practices for small water system owners, board members, and local elected officials. We will discuss the link between water system objectives and rates and explore different types of rate structures. You will learn about available tools and resources to assist with rate setting, and how rates can be set for systems that are partnering or collaborating to provide water service.

 

How Do You Know How Old Your Assets Are?

During the recent National Capacity Development and Operator Certification Workshop in Indianapolis, an interesting question was posed.  The topic under discussion was asset management.  The question was how can very small utilities, particularly those with volunteer boards, determine how old assets are in order to develop a capital improvement plan.

I didn’t have a solid sense of what a good answer should be, so, I asked Heather Himmelberger, the Director for the Southwest Environmental Finance Center.  Heather and her team spend countless hours helping small communities with precisely these kinds of questions.

Here’s Heather’s response…

“The truth is, it doesn’t really matter how old an asset actually is.  The age of an asset is only one characteristic that defines an asset, but it is not even close to being the most important. The good news is that a range of factors such as condition, useful life remaining, preventative maintenance history, and corrective maintenance history, are much more important in determining when an asset needs to be replaced than the age of the asset.

“These factors are also ones that an operator and/or system manager can actually know or make a good educated guess about.  For assets that can be seen, a visual review of the asset by those familiar with it, combined with whatever is known about preventative maintenance history, repair history, and operational issues, can provide a good estimate of condition and how much longer the asset will be able to do the job for which it is intended. For assets that can’t be seen, the same categories can be used to estimate condition and useful life remaining, except the visual inspection.

“When operators or managers are being requested to make an estimate of useful life remaining, it is important to ask the question in the form of, “knowing all you know about how the asset has been operating, how it’s been maintained, the repairs you’ve had to do…how much longer do you think that pump can keep pumping or that valve can continue to open and close or the pipe can convey water, etc.?” This is an estimate in terms of number of years it can still do its job. Will the operator/board member/manager be completely right about their estimates? The answer is no, but that’s okay.  They may overestimate some or underestimate others, but it will be good enough to develop a simple capital improvement plan.

“If you back up a little further and say, what if they don’t even know what assets they have, the process starts at a different place.  Every water system has some knowledge of their system’s components; it may be in someone’s head or in old drawings or just in visual clues on the ground, but there is a starting place. In that case, you start with what is known and develop a simple asset inventory and/or a map of assets. All assets that can be seen (e.g., valves, hydrants, meters, treatment facilities, storage tanks) are good places to start.  An operator/board member can walk or drive around the system either on their own or with an assistance provider and collect data about the assets. Data collection can be done with simple phone apps or on a piece of paper.  Any assets unable to be seen, such as pipe, can be drawn in later based on the visual clues such as valves, meters, and hydrants.  Will this data be exact?  No, but it will be good enough to get the CIP started.  The inventory and map can always be updated and improved over time.”

Thanks, Heather, for offering some helpful, basic approaches in working with very small systems.

EFCN Partners Offer More Webinars

Have questions about Asset Management or wonder how to improve communications with a Water Board?  Our colleagues at the Environmental Finance Center Network may have just what you’re looking for…

WEBINAR:  Ask the Expert: A Unique Opportunity to Ask Your Asset Management Questions or Seek Advice on How to Begin

DATE:              Thursday, August 30, 2018

TIME:               1:00-2:30PM (eastern)

REGISTER:      Register Online

Whether you are just starting to think about asset management and wonder where to begin or are a seasoned practitioner, this webinar is for you. This is your opportunity to ask anything from where to start, to how to sustain a program, to how to set level of service goals or listen to Q&A from others. All questions related to asset management are welcome. In addition to receiving expertise from the U.S., you will have access to a leading asset management professional from New Zealand, which boasts one of the most advanced practices in the world.

Presenters:  Heather Himmelberger, Director – Southwest Environmental Finance Center at the University of New Mexico and Ross Waugh – Waugh Infrastructure Management

 

WEBINAR:  Communicating Water to Your Board

DATE:              Friday, September 7, 2018

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

REGISTER:      Register Online

When your water utility board understands the work you do, you are better able to provide high-quality water service to your community. In this webinar, you will discover a few new tools to improve communication with your board so that they can make sound, well-informed decisions for the water utility.

Presenter:  Tonya Bronlewee, Program Manager – Environmental Finance Center at Wichita State University

EFCN Offers Two New Webinars

1  Understanding Asset Criticality: Reduce Risk and Optimize Operations

DATE:              July 24, 2018

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

REGISTER:      Register Online

Understanding asset criticality can help a utility reduce risks by optimizing operations, planning maintenance tasks and timing, and capital improvements. This webinar will go into detail on the subject of criticality. We will look at multiple types of redundancies, how assets can fail in multiple manners, and how maintenance operations can be improved to take better care of your system’s most critical assets.

Nick Willis, Program Manager at the Environmental Finance Center at Wichita State University, will lead the discussion.

Questions? Contact EFCN at smallsystems@syr.edu

 

2  How to Build Marketing Skills to Gain Support from Water Customers

DATE:              August 9, 2018

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

REGISTER:      Register Online

Water utilities are experts at keeping their work behind the scenes. Water infrastructure is buried in the ground and treatment plants are tucked away in the community. Water magically appears for customers at the turn of a faucet, whenever they need it. Customers rely on this water for health, cleaning, recreation, and life itself. However, very few customers understand the value of clean water service, or the immense amount of resources and around-the-clock work that it takes to make it happen.

It is time for drinking water utilities to take the stage and show customers the value of public water. In this webinar you will learn the importance of marketing and communication to utility customers. Attendees will learn the steps to creating meaningful public engagement, as well as the single most important aspect of gaining customer support.

Wichita State University’s Leslie Kimble, Marketing Coordinator for the Environmental Finance Center, is the presenter.

Questions? Contact EFCN at smallsystems@syr.edu

New England Water Works Offers Board Training Basics

Our colleagues at the New England Water Works Association (NEWWA) have a web page devoted to online learning.  One of the areas of focus is Water Board or Commissioner training.  Based on a 2014 EPA Reference Guide, the online update is divided into three modules:

  1. Roles & Responsibilities and Communication
  2. Budgets & Planning for the Future
  3. From source to Tap – Treatment & Distribution Overview

The goal is for board members or commissioners to acquire a basic understanding of issues such as setting water rates and working effectively with water system operators.

 

For more information, please click this link.

Upcoming Webinars for Small Water Systems

The Environmental Finance Center Network (EFCN) is hosting three new webinars focused on small system needs.  Please share these learning opportunities with your state’s small systems, assistance providers, and other interested parties.

  1. ENCOURAGING CUSTOMERS TO CONSERVE – PRICING AND NON-PRICING APPROACHES

DATE:    Thursday, May 31, 2018

TIME:    2:00-3:00PM (eastern)

REGISTER:  Click here

Water systems have a variety of reasons for wanting to encourage conservation, from environmental benefits to limited supply or treatment capacity. This webinar will explore pricing and non-pricing strategies that water systems can use to encourage their customers to conserve water. Attendees will learn how those approaches impact the system’s ability to cover the full cost of providing safe drinking water today and into the future.

 

  1. EPA TOOLS FOR SMALL PUBLIC SYSTEM WATER OPERATORS: ELECTRONIC PREVENTIVE MAINTENANCE LOGS

DATE:              Tuesday, June 19, 2018

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

REGISTER:      Click here

This webinar features EPA’s updated tool, “Preventive Maintenance for Small Public Water Systems Using Ground Water.” The event will feature the many advantages of implementing a preventative maintenance program. Participants will learn where to find the new electronic preventative maintenance logs and how to use the interactive PDF.

 

  1. HOW TO MOTIVATE YOUR EMPLOYEES AND KEEP YOUR CUSTOMERS HAPPY

DATE:              Wednesday, June 27, 2018

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

REGISTER:      Click here

Employees are a utility’s most important asset. How do you maintain this asset so that that employees are happy and motivated when they come to work? Does having happy employees help you have happy customers? Although a utility can’t control when a customer complaint will arise, they can control how employees and leaders handle the situation.

This webinar will teach utilities how to effectively address customer complaints and how to use strategic communication to increase customer and employee satisfaction. The webinar will also explore the relationship between employees and customers.

EFCN to Host Intermediate Asset Management Webinar

This EFCN Webinar will focus on establishing level of service goals as part of an asset management plan.

DATE:              Tuesday, May 1, 2018

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

REGISTER:      Click here Register

Establishing level of service goals is one of the most underappreciated steps in asset management planning. Asset management allows utilities to maintain a desired level of service at the lowest life cycle costs. But how do we know if and when we are meeting our “desired” level of service?

This webinar will teach you why small water systems shouldn’t skip this important step of asset management, and simple ways to “level up” your utility’s asset management plan by establishing level of service goals today!

EPA Awards Competitive Grants in a New Two Year Cycle

WASHINGTON (April 11,2018) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is announcing the award of more than $25 million in grants to help the country’s small drinking and wastewater systems and private well owners better protect public health and the environment.

“These grants will fund critical workforce development trainings that will help small systems improve operations and identify when repairs to drinking and wastewater infrastructure are needed in local communities,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “EPA is committed to working with our partners in the states to provide all Americans with clean and safe water.”

Funding will be used to provide small public drinking water and wastewater systems with training and technical assistance to achieve and maintain compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act, improve operational performance, and help inform private drinking water well owners about protecting their drinking water supply and improving water quality. The training and assistance will also help system operators identify when critical infrastructure upgrades are needed and how EPA can help support those efforts, which is consistent with the goals and objectives of President Trump’s Infrastructure Plan.

The grantees are:

  • National Rural Water Association
    • $8.1 million: Provide training and technical assistance for small public water systems to achieve and maintain compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act
  • Rural Community Assistance Partnership
    • $8.1 million: Provide training and technical assistance for small public water systems to achieve and maintain compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act
    • $2.2 million: Work with small publicly-owned wastewater and on-site/decentralized wastewater systems to improve water quality
    • $3.4 million: Work with private well owners to improve water quality
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (on behalf of the Environmental Finance Center Network)
    • $3.6 million: Help small drinking water systems improve financial and managerial capacity to provide safe drinking water.

“The EPA grant support of NRWA has provided critical training and technical assistance to small systems across the country for many years,” said Matthew Holmes, NRWA Deputy CEO. This grant has assisted NRWA in establishing a leading nationwide program for Operator Certification Training, Continuing Education training sessions and SDWA compliance support. NRWA looks forward to continuing the program through 2018-2019.”

“RCAP is honored and excited to continue our partnership with EPA,” said Nathan Ohle, Executive Director, RCAP, Inc. These programs help provide small water and wastewater system staff and private well owners with technical assistance and training to ensure that every community across the country is protecting its public health and creating sustainable long-term solutions to drinking water and wastewater issues. Our partnership with EPA is vital to ensuring that small systems have the skills and expertise needed to support the water and wastewater systems that are so important to their community.”

“The Environmental Finance Center Network is grateful that EPA has selected us to continue our work with small drinking water systems on finance and management issues,” said Glenn Barnes, Associate Director, Environmental Finance Center at The University of North Carolina. “Over the last five years, we have worked with water systems of all kinds to address the same challenges: having appropriate revenues, getting the longest life out of infrastructure, having the right staff, accessing funding programs, reducing water and energy inefficiencies, and communicating to decision makers and to the public at large. We are excited for the opportunity to help these water systems better run their operations so that they can continue to provide clean, safe drinking water today and into the future”.

More than 97 percent of the nation’s 150,000 public water systems serve fewer than 10,000 people, and more than 80 percent of these systems serve fewer than 500 people. Many systems face unique challenges in providing reliable drinking water and wastewater services that meet federal and state regulations.

For more information on EPA’s programs and tools to help small water systems, visit: https://www.epa.gov/dwcapacity