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

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EPA’s Monthly Small Water System Webinar Series

Registration is now open for EPA’s Small Drinking Water Systems Webinar on Simultaneous Compliance: Considerations for Adjusting Treatment.

DATE:              April 24, 2018

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

REGISTER:      Click here

This is a two-part broadcast that will consider both simultaneous compliance considerations and best practices (presented by Mike Finn, Office of Water) and the performance of full scale treatment systems for removal of co-occurring inorganic contaminants (presented by Tom Sorg, Office of Research & Development).

NEW Webinar – Demystifying Electric Bills and Water Rates

Our colleagues at EFCN are hosting another webinar for states and utilities.  Demystifying Electric Bills:  Common Energy Bill Elements and Making Sense of Rate Structures is next on their agenda.

DATE:              Thursday, March 8, 2018

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

REGISTER:      Here

Providing drinking water and wastewater requires energy – and a lot of it. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the cost of energy, as a percent of operating costs for drinking water system, can reach as high as 40 percent and is expected to increase 20 percent in the next 15 years. Though many operational costs may be fixed costs, energy costs represent the largest controllable cost of providing water services. Understanding your energy bill and knowing what you are paying for is important for every water utility.

WaterOperator.org – A Very Helpful Resource

Editor’s Note:  ASDWA invited WaterOperator.org to share some basic info about the program and highlight how it can be used as a resource for both state staff and small system operators.

As a primacy agency, you likely work with a limited and often-shrinking budget to carry out the programs delegated to you under the Safe Drinking Water Act. How you carry out your public health protection duties may look different from your neighboring states, but you share the problem of not having enough time and resources to support your systems the way you would like to.

U.S. EPA’s funding for training and technical assistance is designed to fill in some of those gaps and do so with a national perspective, creating opportunities to serve primacy agencies and water systems alike.  WaterOperator.org is a prime example.

Started in 2009 at the University of Illinois under the USEPA technical assistance centers program, WaterOperator.org provides easy access and relevant information to support you and your water systems. The completely free and unbiased website focuses on the challenges specific to small systems and houses a national training calendar and vast resource library, as well as delivers a twice-monthly newsletter.

Here are some of the key problems with using online information and the solutions WaterOperator.org provides:

  1. Helpful resources buried in confusing websites. Information is hard to find, sometimes even on your own agency’s website. Even if you know what you’re looking for, it can sometimes be a real challenge and time commitment to locate the information. WaterOperator.org provides value-added information for more than 18,000 free and publicly available resources, accessible via a nested search engine. The resources are constantly updated and leverage the best materials from over 800 state and federal agencies, technical assistance providers, trainers, and industry associations. If your website doesn’t have it, chances are someone else around the country does. And with WaterOperator.org, you can find it quickly and easily.

 

  1. Training events spread across multiple pages and sites. Within your jurisdiction, how many organizations are providing drinking water training to your systems? It is likely more than a dozen. WaterOperator.org indexes over 11,000 training events every year, all in one easy to search calendar, so you can feel confident sending operators, utility managers, and local decision-makers to it. WaterOperator.org’s staff has done the legwork to make it easy for you.

 

  1. Lack of time to keep abreast of industry news. Your day to day focuses on helping water systems protect public health. Travel to conferences and staying up to date on drinking water issues is not always easy or possible. WaterOperator.org’s staff are consistently searching for relevant information to support you. Their newsletter, which comes as an email twice each month, provides useful news you can use and share with the communities you serve. Every issue features a free upcoming webinar led by an industry organization, technical assistance provider, or compliance agency, as well as information on the newest resources available.

There’s no substitute for the face-to-face support you provide your water systems.  However, WaterOperator.org provides you access to information that saves time and effort by putting the best news, resources, and training events in one easy-to-access place.

WaterOperator.org is a collaboration between the Rural Community Assistance Partnership and the University of Illinois, funded by the USEPA. The best way to remember this essential tool is by signing up for the WaterOperator.org newsletter. If you and your staff would like more information or a demo of the site, contact WaterOperator.org at info@wateroperator.org.

AWWA Offers New Affordability Webinar

Our colleagues at AWWA are offering a no cost webinar for AWWA Members (others – $125) on the subject of affordability and how utilities are striving to better support their low income customers.

DATE:  February 28, 2018

TIME:  1:00-2:30PM

REGISTERHere

Affordability of water service is at the forefront of many challenges water systems face today.  Implementing a customer assistance program (CA) can ameliorate the effect of high water bills on vulnerable and low income customers.

This webinar is an introduction to several models and approaches utilities are using to assist low-income customers and the tools the utilities are using to effectively reach low-income communities.  These models are presented against the backdrop of “Navigating Legal Pathways to Rate-Funded Customer Assistance Programs.” This new report along with additional information from US EPA and others means that the conversation has advanced considerably in the last few years and considerable new information is available.

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 www.abccert.org.  Next year’s ABC Conference is planned for January 8-11 in Savannah, GA.

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.

Talking About Water Loss…

  During ASDWA’s October 2017 Annual Conference, the topic of water loss and water audits came up.  What tools are out there that might be helpful in trying to prevent, identify, and correct water loss in a community?  One free tool is AWWA’s Water Audit Software.  You may download it at no cost here from AWWA’s website.

Their description of this audit tool includes the following…This spreadsheet-based water audit tool [is] designed to help quantify and track water losses associated with water distribution systems and identify areas for improved efficiency and cost recovery…Version 5.0 introduces a new Water Loss Dashboard with interactive graphical analyses as well as a new Comments page allowing the water auditor to capture essential information pertaining to the audit (data sources, assumptions, calculations, etc.). In addition, the overall color scheme and layout have also been improved

Take a look at this tool and consider recommending it to your water systems that may be experiencing water loss.

ORD Small System Webinar Series

 

This month’s ORD Small Systems webinar will focus on State Acceptance of Ultraviolet (UV) Disinfection Technologies.

 

DATE:              Tuesday, October 31

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

REGISTER:      https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/8720506381471194113

Two presentations, State Approval of UV Treatment for Drinking Water:  Facing Challenges Through Collaboration (Derek Losh, OGWDW) and EPA UV Testing and Recommendations for Reactor Validation (Jeffrey Adams, ORD), will look at ongoing work to identify a set of technical priorities for review and approval of UV equipment installation and ongoing compliance monitoring.  The presentations will also look at new UV validation testing approaches for disinfection applications of Cryptosporidium, Giardia, and viruses using various test microbes.