Partnership Discussions

During the first part of March, EPA’s Sustainable Systems Team hosted a webinar to look at Water System Partnerships.  This event was part of the ongoing Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and Capacity Building in Action webinar series.

Ellen Tarquinio (EPA SST) set the stage and provided background on the partnerships concept and what the range of partnerships can look like.  Two states then provided insights into how their capacity development programs supported a range of partnership opportunities.  Thanks to both Karen Torres of New Mexico and Arlene Wyatt of Washington for sharing their approaches!  For those of you who could not participate in the event, ASDWA has included the powerpoint presentations at the link below.


Water System Partnerships Webinar

If you haven’t already signed up, don’t miss the upcoming webinar on Water System Partnerships.  Brought to you by the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and Capacity Building in Action Team, this is the latest in the ongoing series of webinars to highlight ways in which DWSRF set-asides and infrastructure project assistance can be used to build capacity at drinking water systems.

DATE:              March 7, 2017

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


The purpose of this webinar is to highlight ways that states are utilizing DWSRF funds to assist water systems in forming partnerships.

Two New Webinars from EFCN

Mark your calendars now for two new small system focused webinars from our colleagues at the Environmental Finance Center Network (EFCN) as part of their training and assistance grant from EPA.

Ask the Expert – Advice on Water System Partnerships

 DATE:              January 12, 2017

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


This event explores ways that water systems can partner or collaborate to enhance their performance and capabilities.  The webinar also looks at many of the ‘where do I start and what should I avoid and how do I retain control of my system’ type questions that frequently arise in partnership discussions.  This online forum offers an opportunity for you to ask any and all questions related to water system partnerships and regionalization options.

Achieving Revenue Stability through Your Water Rate Structure

 DATE:              January 19, 2017

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


This webinar will explain how demand changes affect revenues and how water utilities can improve their revenue stability by modifying their rate structure design.  The vast majority of a water utility’s revenues is directly dependent on the volume of water sold to customers.  Water demand fluctuates from year to year, and numerous studies have shown that average residential demands are decreasing, placing much of a utility’s revenue at risk.


EFC Network Hosts New Small Systems Blog

As part of their efforts under the EPA Training and Technical Assistance Grant award, the Environmental Finance Center Network is offering to connect those with an interest in topics related to water finance and management to their Small Systems Blog.  Common blog topics include asset and energy management, regulatory compliance, fiscal planning and rate setting, funding coordination, water loss reduction, managerial and financial leadership and water system collaboration.

Their latest featured blog post is written by David Tucker, a Project Director at the UNC Chapel Hill EFC.  Click the title to read more The Virtuous Cycle: Internal Energy Revolving Funds for Small Water Systems.

If you’d like to receive this blog on a monthly basis, just click this link Subscribe.

Free Technical Assistance Available for Underserved Communities Through Community Engineering Corps

[Editor’s Note:  Our colleagues at AWWA are hoping to spread the word on CE Corps as a no-cost alternative for disadvantaged or underserved communities with infrastructure issues. Please contact them if you know of small communities that would qualify for these volunteer services.]

The Community Engineering Corps® (CE Corps) combines the strengths of three allied organizations – American Water Works Association, American Society of Civil Engineers, and Engineers Without Borders USA – to assist underserved US communities in meeting their infrastructure needs and improving the quality of life for each of the communities’ members.

CE Corps volunteers work with US communities that do not have the financial resources to hire engineers. They work directly for communities, or for organizations that represent communities. All publicly owned water systems are eligible to apply for technical assistance. Private water systems held by a for-profit entity serving a nontransient community are also eligible as are private water systems held by nonprofit organizations serving private nonprofit businesses. Examples of such systems include a water system privately owned serving a mobile home park and a water system serving a nonprofit camp facility or school. However, a private water system held by a for-profit entity serving a for-profit business (e.g., a water system serving a restaurant) would not be eligible for technical assistance through CE Corps.

The project process always starts with the community. Once a CE Corps project team has been matched with a community, the team and community work together to develop a work plan and scope of work which describes the team that will work on the project, the schedule, the work tasks, and deliverables. Typical deliverables may include preliminary engineering reports, conceptual designs, permit applications or grant applications. The community may then use the information the project team has provided to hire appropriate contractors to implement the project or build the capital improvements. Any capital construction costs associated with the project shall be borne by the community; however, a community may elect to have volunteers stay engaged with it in the capacity of “owner’s representatives.”

One drinking water project example is the community of Cedar Gulch South Dakota that requested technical assistance with its water system because they cannot meet the SDWA limits for radium and gross alpha. The community has requested engineering assistance to determine which options give it the best return on investment. Cedar Gulch has been matched with a group of volunteers from Virginia to develop a work plan. Among several available alternatives, they are considering a new well, centralized treatment, point-of-use treatment, and possible regionalization with a neighboring community. The end goal of this project will be to bring the community’s water system back into compliance with SDWA requirements.

A second example is Delta Junction, Alaska, where the Snowed Inn RV and Trailer Park has applied for technical assistance to address violations listed on the community’s 2014 Sanitary Survey. The trailer park is home to 24 permanent residents but hosts seasonal tourists as well. The permanent residents are at risk of losing their homes if corrections are not made to the water and sanitation infrastructure. Deficiencies that could be corrected have been addressed; however, there are outstanding issues requiring the expertise of engineers. The applicant also requested assistance in identifying potential grants that could fund capital improvements to the water and sanitation systems. This project is currently open and CE Corps is accepting volunteer project team applications.

Community Engineering Corps is driven by communities motivated to take the next steps to improve their infrastructure systems. Communities can find technical assistance for their next project by submitting an application online.

Since the program launch in February 2014, CE Corps has seen successes across the US. Currently, more than 25 projects are in varying stages of progress. Several of these project communities were first introduced to CE Corps through their state primacy agencies.

Getting started:

  1. Visit the CE Corps website for FAQs, application instructions, and additional information
  2. Complete and submit the Community Application for a Community Engineering Corps Project through either or

Contact:  Send your questions to Lindsey Geiger, Project Engineer, American Water Works Association at



National Capacity Development & Operator Certification Workshop a Success

Nearly 130 partners and colleagues from the small water system community in 36 states and Washington, DC came together this week in Dallas to discuss opportunities to enhance capacity development and operator certification programs across the states.  The Workshop theme, Roadmap to the Future:  Building Sustainability & Integrating Resiliency, sparked numerous brainstorming sessions, presentations from subject matter experts, and calls for development of forward thinking ‘next steps’ strategies.  Contributors included state capacity development, operator certification, and DWSRF program staff, EPA Headquarters and Regional staff, other Federal agency partners, and assistance providers from each of the major training organizations.  Discussions ranged across a broad spectrum of topics such as water system partnerships, financial capacity, resiliency, operator training and workforce, sustainability and collaboration, and communication and community relationships.

The Workshop was cohosted by ASDWA and EPA’s Sustainable Systems Team.  Efforts are already under way to develop a workshop summary, post presentations, and outline strategies to take appropriate next steps based on participant input related to challenges and opportunities.  ASDWA will keep you informed of the progress of these various follow up efforts and share materials and information as soon as they become available.

California Takes on Mandatory Water System Consolidation

In June, California’s Governor signed Senate Bill 88 into law.  The new law allows the State Water Resources Control Board (where the drinking water program is now housed) to “…require certain water systems that consistently fail to provide safe drinking water to consolidate with, or receive an extension of service from, another public water system. The consolidation can be physical or managerial.”

While the state has long encouraged voluntary consolidations or restructuring, the ongoing severe drought and resulting water emergencies experienced by both small and disadvantaged communities provides the impetus for this new direction.  The state has also said, “Consolidating public water systems and extending service from existing public water systems to communities and areas which currently rely on under-performing or failing small water systems, as well as private wells, reduces costs and improves reliability.  It does this by extending any development costs to a larger pool of ratepayers.”

The new process involves first providing technical assistance to analyze the problem and recommend a course of action for the distressed system.  Separate from enforcement-required actions, this process then creates a dialogue with the affected system and nearby public water systems.

Factors to be considered before any consolidation is undertaken include analyses of the capacity of the neighboring system; geographical separation; infrastructure improvement costs; costs and benefits to both systems; and access to financing for the resulting consolidated entity.  The two systems then have a six-month window to develop a consolidation plan.  Should that not happen, the State Board may order the two systems to consolidate.

Mandatory consolidation is dependent on several factors that must be addressed.  These include determinations that the system fails to provide safe drinking water; such consolidation is technically and economically feasible and provides the most efficient and cost-effective means for providing a safe water supply; and the capacity of the proposed interconnection is large enough to accommodate additional customers.  Outreach to affected customers must also occur before any consolidation can take place.

It will be interesting to follow the progress of this new California approach.  Some preliminary notices regarding consolidation have already been issued and the deliberative process has begun.

For more information about this California initiative, please visit the State Water Board’s website at  This link also includes a Fact Sheet that summarizes the new requirements, the process and the state’s legal authorities to act.

ASDWA & EPA Cohost the Next Joint National Capacity Development and Operator Certification Workshop

It’s been two years since state and EPA staff from the Capacity Development and Operator Certification programs joined with their training and assistance providers to meet in Atlanta to share success stories and discuss issues of mutual concern.

Now, it’s time to do it again!  Please join ASDWA and EPA’s Sustainable Systems Team in Dallas, Texas for the 2015 Joint National Capacity Development and Operator Certification Workshop.  Workshop dates are December 8-10, 2015.  We will be meeting and staying at the Marriott City Center Hotel with a special group rate of $125/night (Federal per diem rate).

This year’s workshop theme is Roadmap to the Future: Building Sustainability and Integrating Resiliency.  Sessions of the workshop will include how Capacity Development and Operator Certification programs and staff work together, methods for building resiliency into sustainability, and best practices for partnerships and collaboration between the two programs and their partners.  The workshop will provide the opportunity for participants to share success stories and brainstorm new ideas on improving program functions.  There is no cost to participate; however, you must register in advance.

SPECIAL NOTE:  All are invited to attend, but please note that the first morning (8:30-Noon on December 8) is reserved for discussions between state and EPA partners only.  Everyone is welcome to participate in all other portions of the Workshop.

Want to know more?  Click   We have posted the latest agenda, an online registration form, a link to the hotel where the meeting will take place, a list of fun things to do in Dallas, and a list of helpful background and resource materials provided by our EPA Sustainable Systems Team that can quickly bring you up to date or serve as a refresher for the fundamentals of both of these programs.

We think Dallas is a not to be missed meeting!  Click the link above, read through the materials, check the agenda, and we believe you will agree with us.

Questions about the agenda?  Contact Susanna Bains (EPA SST) at

Questions about registration?  Contact Bridget O’Grady (ASDWA) at


New EFCN Webinars – Utility Partnerships; Energy Improvements

Our colleagues at the Environmental Finance Center Network (EFCN) continue to host a series of no cost small system-focused webinars that should be helpful to state staff engaged in small system support.  Below is information on the latest two in the EFCN series.


Identifying and Overcoming Challenges to Successful Water Utility Partnerships

This webinar will explore the challenges water systems, particularly small water systems, face when entering into agreements and partnerships with other water systems. A variety of partnership models will be discussed and example case study scenarios will be provided, but the primary focus will be on agreements to sell and buy water under different conditions.

DATE:              September 11, 2015

TIME:               1:30-3:00PM (eastern)

REGISTER:      Click Register

The webinar will also examine agreement challenges and strategies that take into consideration local water supply objectives – is the agreement being used to provide a permanent water supply; a time limited water supply that allows for postponement of new facilities; a periodic water supply during times of drought or peak demand; or an emergency water supply times during times of crisis. Participants will have the opportunity to discuss entering into different types of agreements under different circumstances. Jeff Hughes, Director, EFC at UNC Chapel Hill, will be the presenter


 Find Money in the Water System Budget: Paying for Energy Improvements

This webinar will focus on energy savings performance contracting (ESPC). In ESPC, an energy services company (ESCO), a financing firm, a measurement & verification (M&V) firm, and a customer (the water system) come together to design, finance, and build energy improvements at the water system.

DATE:              September 16, 2015

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

REGISTER:      Click this link Register

For many water systems, the electric (or energy) bill is one of the largest operating expenses regularly incurred by the water system. It is also one of the most controllable operating expenses a water system will have. However, even after energy assessments have been completed, energy usage baselines have been constructed, and project ideas have been drawn up and prioritized, water system managers may lack ideas for how to pay for it.  Glenn Barnes, Director and David Tucker, Project Director – EFC at UNC Chapel Hill are the presenters for this event.

If you have questions about either of these events, please contact:

Laura Flagg (for registration questions) at

Lexi Kay Herndon (for program questions) at

Have a Good Story to Share? Let AWWA Know

[Editor’s Note:  Although the official AWWA deadline is tomorrow, they are willing to extend the timeframe if you have a great idea, program, technique, or experience to share.  Just let them know ASAP.]

AWWA is drafting their 2015 Webinar Program.  Webinars are a great way to reach a broad range of your peers across the nation on topics that matterContact Lindsey Geiger ( today if you would like a proposal form.

The 2015 lineup will highlight areas of critical interest, including:

  • Utility Management and Finances
  • Regulatory Issues
  • Water Quality and Treatment
  • Workforce Strategies
  • Infrastructure Replacement and Renewal
  • Sustainable Infrastructure
  • Distribution and Plant Operations
  • Water Loss
  • Communicating the Value of Water
  • Wastewater
  • Reuse
  • Stormwater
  • Water Resources
  • Emergency Preparedness
  • Small Systems

Please share your good efforts – we all benefit from learning what our peers are doing!